The Government’s Lokpal – Not our Lokpal!!!

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The Government’s “NO” got bigger as Anna’s basic demands were put on board. Be it inclusion of judiciary in the ambit, getting PM under jurisdiction, keeping a watch on the MPs being bribed inside the Parliament, auditing all office levels or bureaucrats, joining hands with CBI & CVC…the government wasn’t ready to give into the mass appeal.

 

The Civil Society version of the bill aims to hit the Bulls Eye and shootout any loopholes in the system. With eminent activists like Anna Hazare, Prashant Bhusan, Kiran Bedi, Lyngdoh and others, the redressal systems are powerful enough to uproot the weeds out of the field.

 

Mr. Hazare’s fast ended with the government capitulating to his demand for a joint committee to draft the Lokpal Bill, but not before the issue had resonated throughout the country. Government & Anna’s Team are currently at loggerheads over some issues which Anna’s team considers non-negotiable but at which the Government side is favouring. The mounting fear and foresight is probably holding the authorities away from accepting the original draft of the bill as it is expected to scan the past, present and future events that spelled C O R R U P T I O N word by word.

 

The existing Lokpal Bill proposed by the government is quite toothless and has glaring loopholes which make the whole anti-corruption uprising a futile exercise. If this version of the bill is brought to grounds, the whole selection process, powers and member of Lokpal would come out as a mere fruitless piece of paper. The deficiencies of the government version of the Lokpal are as follows:

 

a) The first such issue in question is the inclusion of PM within the ambit of the Bill. From all published accounts, the Government itself had agreed to bring the PM within the scope of the Bill and the government’s version of the Bill, well before Hazare went on his indefinite fast, too had a provision to that effect. Prashant Bhushan reminded that in Bofors case also, the then PM was under scanner so keeping him out of red circle simply holds no meaning. Even then, Rajiv Gandhi held the centre & didn’t leave the office. Though the argument was stout enough to mute its oppositions but Mr. P Chidambaram still maintained that the PM’s position would be weakened if there were allegations against him every other day.

 

b) Keeping the Bureaucrats outside the purview of the Lokpal Bill is a huge loophole as government bureaucrats have been found to be ringleaders in most corruption scams taking place in the country. The recent CVC case where PJ Thomas was implicated and Supreme Court had to force the government to remove him. How can it be impractical to demand that the Lok Pal should be able to take action against all the thousands of officials of the Government at all levels all over India? Is the Lokpal being created for investigating corruption of such a few officers? Was this the purpose of such a big anti-corruption movement in India?

 

c) There seems to be no strong reason for why complaints against the Legislative Members belong entirely to the jurisdiction of the Speaker of the Lok Sabha or the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha, because the Speakers in India have already sullied their image with repeated bias to their party. Independent and impartial speakers in the Indian Parliament are hard to find. Denying Jan Lokpal the power to be the regulatory watchdog to the Members of Parliament is not and wouldn’t ever be acceptable to the unbiased structure of Lokpal.

 

d) Most of the large scams have taken place in Defence Deals. This has happened under the rule of both the main political parties. Bofors, HDW Submarine are some of the bigger Defence Scandals that garnered nationwide attention. The Jan Lokpal version allows investigations into such cases keeping any and every level of authority under the scanner. The government’s suggestion to Lokpal to quit the authority to investigate these would fracture the foundation of anti-corruption in India.

 

e) Selection of 3 retired judges by the ruling government only to the Lokpal Panel has been put forward by the government but the Lokpal advocates selection of any eminent citizens who have fought against corruption, made transparently by the government, Civil Society members and the Judiciary. The supervisors of the world’s largest democracy seem to have shunned-off the biggest rule of a Democratic Society i.e. People’s Participation. The Lokpal Bill aims to remind them that a Democracy, in its real sense, cannot thrive merely upon the Right to Vote (where the power lies in choosing the less corrupt ones of the lot).

 

The only thing the government didn’t say no to was the concept of Citizen Charter that too stands baseless if the actions cannot be pitched against half of the “exceptions” as they like to shelve them as. Another perspective adds that if both the sides stood strong at their ends, the nation might have to wait indefinitely and let corruption eat it up from inside. To save that, Lokpal may take a start owing to little negotiations and rove its power on the field as it gets rolled. But the Lokpal Bill itself is a movement to obliterate the compromise that the nation has been making to corrupt authorities, so any unreasonable negotiation by them is definitely denied the daylight by the people of India. With the government on the offensive, the civil society will have to re-think its strategy now. It should also be wary that the emerging Baba Ramdev is running away from Anna Hazare’s agenda and has come to position himself crucially between the civil society and the government.

 

Garima Obrah

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