Real poll issue should be corruption

Highlights

Real poll issue should be corruption,‘corruption, Madabhushi Sridhar. In the present democratic governance of this country, people should raise question of ‘corruption’ and decide the future of the political party based on their integrity and integrity alone.

In the present democratic governance of this country, people should raise question of ‘corruption’ and decide the future of the political party based on their integrity and integrity alone.

If anybody thinks corruption is no issue, he is absolutely wrong. Delhi voter proved it. The national capital voter proved another principle of democracy – eternal vigilance is price of democracy. A vigilant voter kept out one party without a doubt and the other because of doubt. They voted AAP also with a small doubt, because of which an absolute majority was not given. With this the ‘corruption’ is brought back to the centre-stage as an issue. Whole nation should reject corrupt parties and candidates.

The law, which could not be passed for several decades, got passed at jet speed. Members discussed the Bill in spite of shouting by Seemandhra members in the Houses, within a couple of days and Lokpal is going to be established. When Anna Hazare launched fast to press for Lokpal, it was doubted. Within no time it became certain and then reality.

With Aam Aadmi party establishing confidence that totally new politics could be practiced the issues for the general elections are going to be different than what are expected. The fractured verdict has fractured many myths and notions and broke the traditional poll calculations.

There should be strong set of anti-graft legislations so that highly corrupt officials do not escape through routes opened by corrupt money. A stronger Right to Information law along with Service law or Redressal of Grievances with penal provisions, whistle blower protection and strong Prevention of Corruption Act are needed. The Lokpal is a major step in this direction to fight the graft.

The Lokpal

The Lokpal bill mandates states to set up Lokayuktas within 365 days and the states have the freedom to determine the nature and type of Lokayukta. However, they should not dilute the powers of Lokayukta as available in the Bill. They can make it stronger. It also gives powers to the States to appoint state Lokayuktas.

As per new legislation the Lokpal will consist of a chairperson and a maximum of eight members, of which fifty per cent shall be judicial members and other fifty per cent members of Lokpal shall be from among SC, ST, OBCs, minorities and women.

Who will select?

Who will select Lokpal? This is the biggest challenge. New Bill says that the selection committee will have Prime Minister, Lok Sabha Speaker, leader of the Opposition in Lok Sabha and the Chief Justice of India.

A fifth member of the selection committee for selection of Lokpal under the category of "eminent jurist" may be nominated by the President on the basis of recommendation of the first four members of the selection committee.

The scope of Lokpal is enlarged to include societies and trusts that collect public money, receive funding from foreign sources, and have an income level above a certain threshold, it excludes bodies creating endowments for or performing religious or charitable functions.

The new Lokpal will have its own prosecution wing.

Before taking a decision on filing a charge sheet in a case upon consideration of the investigation report, the Lokpal may authorise its own prosecution wing or the concerned investigating agency to initiate prosecution in special courts. Earlier bill said prosecution of the case could be done only by the prosecution wing of the Lokpal.

A directorate of prosecution will be formed. Appointment of the director of prosecution will be on the recommendation of the Central Vigilance Commissioner.

To ensure independence of the CBI, the transfer of officers of CBI investigating cases referred by Lokpal will be only with the approval of Lokpal who will also have superintendence over CBI in relation to Lokpal referred cases.

Another significant aspect the new Bill is that it brought the Prime Minister under the purview of the Lokpal with subject matter exclusions and specific process for handling complaints against the Prime Minister. The Bill says that inquiry against the prime minister has to be held in-camera and approved by two-thirds of the full bench of the Lokpal. The time limits are essential to complete the process. Inquiry has to be completed within 60 days and investigation to be completed within six months.

Lokpal shall order an investigation only after hearing the public servant. One drawback or demerit of the bill continues to be the provision to punish complainants.

Punishment for false and frivolous complaints: Imprisonment up to one year and a fine of up to Rs 1 lakh.

Public servants: Imprisonment up to seven years.

Criminal misconduct and habitually abetting corruption: Jail term up to 10 years.

Long History

The history of this pending legislation is long. First Administrative Reforms Commission led by Morarji Desai recommended setting up of Lokpal at Centre and Lokayukta in states. From 1998 to 2009 successive governments introduced Lokpal bill eight times. In 2002 when Justice MN Venkatachalaiah Commission has reviewed working of the Constitution, the report strongly suggested Lokpal and Lokayukthas. In 2004, it was part of Common Minimum Program of UPA-I but Lokpal Bill kept on changing. In 2005 Second Administrative Reforms Commission reiterated the need for this institution, but nothing happened for six years. In 2011 the UPA-II Lokpal Bill was suggested to be passed by GoM headed by Pranab Mukherjee.

Only after Anna Hazare’s agitation -indefinite fast - in April 2011, the pressure felt and a joint drafting committee consisting of ministers and civil society members. Sarkari Bill and Janlokpal Bill were discussed in public, Sarkari bill was criticised for its defects. The bill was sent to standing committee. Anna Hazare took up the agitation again forcing the Sarkar to introduce the Bill and in December 2011 the Bill was passed by Lok Sabha. In 2012 Bill was reintroduced in Rajya Sabha which referred to select committee.

Anna Hazare began the fast for the third time on December 10 this year and both the Houses passed the amended bill. However, the institution has to come into existence and action. The corrupt should know that they would be questioned.

(The author is formerly teacher at NALSAR University of Law, Hyderabad)

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