The Tents have been uprooted from Ramlila Maidan and; the Media Persons have left the place which that was the center of the Indian democracy for a duration of 13 days amidst the drama which engulfed every house, every soul.
Every Single person was clued glued into the events which that were shown day and night on our news channels and every point which was debated endlessly by Waves and waves of experts. Some tried to discuss the legitimacy of the so-called “Civil Society” and others tried to raise aspersions on the characters and motives of Anna Hazare, Arvind Kejriwal and Kiran Bedi.
Various People from the Government made many inflammatory speeches and caused damage to the dialogue process primarily due to their refusal to listen to “these people” whom they didn’t consider equals, as was apparent from their vitriolic words.
Finally 12 Days after Mr. Hazare started his fast to push for a stronger Lokpal Bill, the Government finally caved in to popular belief and agreed to table all versions of the Lokpal Bill in Parliament to discuss and choose the best version.
While this could have been done much earlier, it shows how far the Elected Representatives actually are from the pulse of the People.
Even though the Contents of the Lokpal Bill have been discussed to no end, I would like to dissect them once more in a detailed point-wise format.
The Important points to Note in the Proposed Bill are as follows:
1) Prime Minister : The Government says that it is not correct and whereas the Civil Society insists it is. Making the PM prosecutable by the Lokpal can be detrimental in the sense that it gives off the feel of an alternative government to the democratically elected one. This is against the principle on which our constitution has been based. The problem with the way our cabinet functions is that the PMO can take up multiple ministries under itself, which thus become free from the investigative eye of the Lokpal. This is wrong. If we are affording special status to the PM, this should only extend to the PMO Only and not the extended ministries. This would require an amendment to the current constitution or a slight tweak on the Lokpal Bill to this effect.
The main opposition to keeping the PM out of Lokpal’s reach is that corruption will be rampant under the auspices of the PMO. However, in such a case, it is the responsibility of the Media to report such a discrepancy and our duty as Citizens to demand his expulsion after which the Lokpal will take over. Also, with Mr. Kejriwal dropping the demand for PM to be included under the Lokpal, the biggest bone of contention has been made redundant.
2) Judiciary : Our Democracy needs to maintain its shape and form and Judiciary is an important Pillar pillar in itof democracy. Therefore, we need to make sure that No Parallel Power is created by making a body like Lokpal. The Judiciary is already answerable to the Legislative and can currently be investigated by the Investigative Powers following an FIR.
The Filing of the FIR cannot be started without the express permission of the Chief Justice, who has historically not agreed to let investigations go through despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Take the example of Justice Sen Gupta of Kolkata High Court. Permission was sought from the then Chief Justice of India, Justice Venkatachaliah, who is renowned for his integrity. However, Justice Venkatachaliah did not give his permission for the same. Was the evidence against Justice Sen Gupta strong enough?
The strength of the evidence can be gauged from the fact that Justice Sen Gupta was raided and arrested soon after he retired because after retirement, permission of CJI was not required.
This process is Loplop-sided and needs to be altered to make sure that the Investigation against Judiciary is initiated by another Body headed by the Legislature like a Joint Parliamentary Committee. The other steps to the impeachment of Judiciary is not being sought to be changed by the Jan Lokpal Bill either.
3) Parliamentarians : The Behaviour behaviour of the MPs in our Parliament has caused enough distress to our Nation with the recently-in-news Cash for Votes Scam. This raises the pertinent question of policing them for such actions. The Government’s Lokpal doesn’t consider this at all in their Bill. The way to handle this should be for the Speaker/Dy Speaker of the House to table the complaint to the Ethics Committee, which should discuss this openly in a televised/recorded discussion meeting. After a consensus is reached, the Lokpal should be called in to investigate the matter fully.
4) Grievance Redressal : Justice Delayed is Justice Denied. Many a million common people have had to sit on silently waiting for their applications to be processed, their cheques to be cleared, their needs to be met with. This problem has become more than an epidemic now. We associate a delay in paperwork with Sarkari way of work. This has to be stopped. A little bit of professionalism can go a long way in revitalizing the tarnished reputations of many Government Agencies. Fear of a Fine would go a long way in ensuring that the Lethargic populace that reside in our Government offices work as they are supposed to. Jan Lokpal Bill details out a plan to implement this based on a complaint which can filed by the General Public.
5) CBI : Another important piece of the puzzle is the Investigative Body. Currently, this comes under the function of the Government and it has also removed the CBI from under ambit of the RTI. This clearly shows one thing. That the Government wants to control the CBI to ensure that all the anti-corruption activities are controlled by itget brushed under the carpet. The recent political arrests of the Reddy Brothers and the impending arrest of Jagan Reddy clearly points to a Political Vendetta being played out with the CBI being used as a weapon. This tarnishes the purpose of having a body like the CBI. Therefore, the Anti-Corruption Body of CBI must be taken out of from the Government’s Control and put under either the Lokpal or be made an independent body under the ambit of the RTI. Without this basic differentiation, the CBI remains nothing but an abused power.
6) Lower Bureaucracy : The demand by the Government to retain the lower bureaucracy doesn’t really hold water. If an anti-corruption body is set up to probe corruption, why limit its reach to only Group ‘A’ officers? This can will only work act as a hindrance to the Lokpal and the Entire Bureaucracy needs to be under the purview of one Body only. The government’s logic that it would require considerable manpower can also, at best, be termed baseless.
7) Terms of Punishment: The Jan Lokpal Bill advises stronger punishment than the existing system with the Maximum Punishment being raised to 10 years and special provisions to charge and increase the punishment for people in special positions such as Ministerial etc. Also business Individuals would be blacklisted and fined higher. Any person would know that the best way to deter crime is to make sure that the punishment is much more severe than the gain. And with a competent Body in place, the Individual on the verge would be deterred effectively.
8) Complainants : The Government’s Bill has 2 to 5 years imprisonment for the people found to have filed Vexatious or Falsified complaints plus fines. Moreover, the Accused can file a complaint back against the complainant. Also, all the expenses to the accused are borne by the Government and the Complainant. If this is the case, many people will not even raise their voice against corruption. This has to be changed and although we need to stop false complainants from coming forward, we must not deter the Harassed harassed from speaking up. Remember that more than the blows of the Murderer, Society dies out off the indifference of the Witness.
While agreeing that the Jan Lokpal is a fair distance away from being cleared and more importantly clearing off Corruption from our Lives, we must also take note of the fact that we have traveled a long way in the past few days. All of the above points need to be discussed by us common people to be able to form our own opinion regarding this Bill.
The momentum must not be lost. The Voice must not be lowered.
We have a Goal and its closer than ever. Jai Hind.
Simply an Observant Person, he likes to watch the world and its trends unfold.