The Jan Lokpal Bill

"Lokpal" is the buzz word these days in India. The second biggest buzz word is "The Civil Society". Till yesterday, I was referred to as a citizen of India. Today, I'm a member of the Civil Society. Definitely, times are changing. 

This blog post aims to discuss my views and opinions, thoughts and ideas on the Jan Lokpal Bill. The views presented here are with due respects to your opinion.

In April 2011, social crusader Anna Hazare went on a fast to insist on the passing of the Lokpal Bill. The main aim of The Lokpal Bill is to provide a better legal framework to work against corrupt officials across different public organizations and in the Government.

Anna Hazare
Taking cognizance of his fast and views, and the tremendous support that he generated across India, the Government of India has setup the Lokpal panel. It is consisting of five members of the Government and five members of the civil society. They are responsible for formulating the Lokpal Bill till 15th August 2011.

What is the Jan Lokpal Bill? Well, for people with limited knowledge of Hindi - The Jan Lokpal Bill literally means The Citizen's Ombudsman Bill.

And who exactly is an ombudsman? Since the matter has been discussed greatly in public sphere, it would be worthwhile to understand a few definitions.
  • An ombudsman is a government appointee who investigates complaints by private persons against the government.

  • A government official who hears and investigates complaints by private citizens against other officials or government agencies.

  • A commissioner who acts as independent referee between individual citizens and their government or its administration.
Let us understand the step by step argument put forth by the proponents of the Lokpal Bill.



The proponents say that there are two mechanisms to work against corruption in the functioning of the Government and other public organizations.
  • The Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) and the Departmental Vigilance (DV) - responsible for managing vigilance aspect of the corruption cases.

  • The Central Bureau of Investigation - responsible for managing the criminal aspect of the corruption cases.
Certain drawbacks are highlighted in the current mechanisms. The drawbacks highlighted are quite true and need to be addressed.

Regarding the CVC
  • Lack of adequate resources - limited to less than 200 people.

  • Just an advisory body - cannot enforce or ensure action.

  • Cannot initiate independent action or inquiries against people beyond a certain level.

  • Cannot register criminal cases.

  • Cannot have any power over department vigilance wing.

  • Appointment to the CVC is done by the ruling party.
Regarding the Departmental Vigilance Wings
  • Officers responsible for vigilance are a part of the same department. This impacts their independence.

  • Similar to the CVC, it cannot initiate independent action.

  • No powers against politicians.
Regarding the CBI
  • It is overburdened.

  • Under the control of Central Government of India.

  • Assumed to be unfair - since it works under orders of the Central Government.

Corruption in Judiciary
What does the Lokpal Bill Propose?
  • Setting up the institution of the Lokpal at the Centre and Lokayukta in each state. It will be independent of the government. They will not come under the purview of the any minister or bureaucrat.

  • Cases will be completed in one year.

  • The loss caused by the corrupt individual to the state will be recovered.

  • The common man can approach the Lokpal if some of his work related to the Government is not done. Lokpal will be responsible for getting this done and the guilty will be punished.

  • Corrupt Lokpal officers will be punished in two months.

  • CVC, Departmental Vigilance and the Anti-Corruption Branch of the CBI will be merged with the Lokpal.

  • Lokpal can initiate independent proceedings.

  • Lokpal will be responsible for providing protection to the people who are victimized for raising a voice against corruption.
At a face value, all these seem very promising initiatives. Most people will think that this bill will be very helpful.

However, at this moment, I would like to recollect a thought I had read somewhere – India and Indians are good at planning, poor at execution. 

This thought has rumbled through my mind every time I have failed in execution. I look back only to look with awe at my plan, only to shudder at its execution.

What is my opinion? 

With the Lokpal and Lokayukta, we are creating more institutions. Why not look at strengthening existing institutions? Why not look at empowering them to do the work they are supposed to do?

Let's take it step by step.

Addressing "The Lack of Resources".
  • The lack of resources in the vigilance departments is a challenge. Staff strength of 200 to have vigilance control over an entire nation is not possible. The Lokpal Bill will not address that challenge in any way.

  • The solution is simple. It is necessary to staff these organizations adequately. And staffing is to be done with the right kind of people, the professionals who are trained to do this duty appropriately.

  • This way you will bring in more people to do the required investigations. And this will implicitly resolve the problem related to long time required for execution of the cases. With more honest people at work, the investigations can be prompt and so can be the subsequent judgement.

  • As an offshoot, the Government will be generating employment.
Addressing "The Lack of Independence"
  • The drawback highlighted is that the CVC and DV Wings do not have teeth. Let's give them teeth. Let's give them the power to investigate independently.

  • Let's have a tree structure of the organization where the DV wing reports to the CVC Wing. This way the CVC can direct and have control over the DV wings. This resolves one problem mentioned earlier.

  • The CVC wing in turn will report into the Prime Minister. This proposal will draw criticism from people who think that such a vigilance team should be independent of the politicians.

    Yes, that argument holds good. But you always need a leader. You cannot have a headless organization. A leader who has the responsibility and authority. And in my opinion, the Prime Minister of India is the supreme leader in India.

  • The Prime Minister can appoint an individual or a team responsible for managing this entire show. And they will be responsible for its execution – end to end. The ultimate responsibility will be the Prime Minister. If the PM fails, he will be responsible to the Parliament and effectively to the country.

  • The members of the DV wing will not be a part of the same department. They will be independent functionaries working under directly under the CVC.

  • These vigilance commissions are to be given an authority to lodge criminal cases if the need be.

  • Let us not set any boundaries on the people who can be investigated by these authorities. Everyone who is the citizen of India, including the Prime Minister and the Judges, is supposed to function under the same sphere of law and hence should be investigated by the same set of authorities.

  • We will of course need to address the chance of corruption by the very people responsible for managing corruption. This will require setting up an independent control mechanism which can serve as a deterrent against corruption.

    Haven't we heard of ACB sleuths catching someone from the ACB itself taking bribes? We will need a similar structure.
The Prime Minister
Addressing "The People Question"

Let's now come to the question of the people who will be working in this anti-corruption process. The Jan Lokpal Bill suggests that these people will be elected by a transparent public participatory process.
  • With due respects to everyone, we need to remember that India is a country of 120 crore people spread across a land mass of 3.2 million square kilometers. We cannot have an election to select a Lokpal and a Lokayukta. It is simply too expensive.

  • And if indeed we need to select such people, what will form as a basis of it? Will there be some campaigning, with its associated expenditure of money? How will people know who is good and who is bad? It's simply not possible.

  • What we can do instead? Well, the team can be selected by the elected representatives of the people. And when I say the elected representatives, I mean the all the members of the Parliament – cutting across party lines. This way, each and every elected representative will be responsible for choosing the vigilance team member.

  • A thorough background check of the candidates must be done to ensure that they themselves are not black sheep.
Addressing "The Time Question"

Without doubt, the time required for execution is huge in corruption cases. This means that in many of the cases, the intent of the proceedings is lost. How do we resolve this problem?
  • Setup goals. The Lokpal Bill says that the Lokpal should resolve cases within one year. Well, that is ambitious in some cases while extremely liberal in some cases.

    But yes, it's a good time line. Let's set the same timeline for the Vigilance Commissions. What's the harm? 

  • Importantly, they should be empowered to execute such tasks.
Well, I may have tried to answer some of the questions which the Lokpal Bill is trying to answer. And if you have read intently till now, you might have understood my opinion. 

Summarizing, I'm not in favor of creating a parallel structure for addressing the cases of corruption. Instead we should look at strengthen existing systems and frameworks to address the situation. 

Most importantly, we are missing an important point here. We are looking at addressing the situation after corruption has taken place. Why don't we go a step back?

Why don't we evaluate why corruption take place? Corruption is social phenomenon and the causes of that problem need to be addressed. We should think about what causes people to be corrupt. 

Example of Corruption
Many a times, it is the limited salary offered in the job which causes people to be corrupt – because this gives them an opportunity to get that extra penny. This is a problem which should be resolved. 

On a long term, India should look at creating better opportunities of work and for better equitable distribution of income. This could possibly nip the corruption in the bud.

There have been cases where the well-off people and politicians are found indulging in corruption. They need to be punished strongly so that it can serve as deterrence for occurrence of such cases in future.

Net in net, I will summarize my opinion as below
  • The problems highlighted by the proponents of the Lokpal Bill are correct and need to be resolved.

  • The Lokpal Bill structure would not resolve those problems.

  • The existing anti corruption organizations need to be enhanced, and empowered. Frameworks need to be created to address this enable them to work independently to yield the required results.

  • The root cause of corruption needs to be addressed.
Well, different people will have different opinions. Mine might agree with yours or might be opposite to your opinion.

What do you think? What is your opinion?
The Jan Lokpal Bill The Jan Lokpal Bill Reviewed by Vyankatesh on Sunday, June 12, 2011 Rating: 5

11 comments:

  1. very informative and nicely summed up !!!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Nice read :)
    India need Right to Recall, for more knowledge into the matter look at http://n2mn.blogspot.com/2011/06/rahul-mehta-true-gandhian.html

    ReplyDelete
  3. Very nicely penned. You collected some nice information here. :)
    Keep posting. :D

    ReplyDelete
  4. Respected Anna Saab, hats off to you and ur team. Lots of thanks to Mr. Kejriwal. Ye bhrast politician bahot sare adchan aapke raste layenge, par aap logon ko aage badhna hai. Ye Chor log nahi chahenge inki pol khul jaye. Khas kar k Ye Congress Party wale. Sare k sare suru se hi chor hain. desh ki swantrata ki time se hi ye log hume andhere me rakhe hue hain. Nehuru family satta apne kabje me karne k liye ek sachha hindustani,ek sachha desh bhakt, mananiya Netaji ko marwa diya. Ye Congressiee o ki chaplusi dekh k sarm aati hai. khas kar k ye Digvijay Singh aur Pranab. Ye dono Soniya ka talwa humesha chat rahe hain, kahin uski buri nazar in par na pad jaye aur laat mar de.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Well said friend..........Youth like u are needed for our future India...

    ReplyDelete
  6. Good article. Finally, someone who can explain this in simple language.... so that I now understand what Lokpal Bill is all about.

    thanks

    ReplyDelete
  7. Thanks Venkatesh,

    Good Analysis and presentation on LokPal.

    keep blogging.

    Super Likes for this blog.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Coming to your points one by one:
    #"Lack of independence" : and you are solving this by making PM to head the CVC. Tell me how would you make sure that a case be registered against an A. Raja by getting the permission from the PM for it. Of course, he won't give the permission until the case comes out open in public and he's reputation is at stake. This is the problem they are talking about. This is why we need independent organisation. You say, an organization always need a leader and PM is that leader. Well, let me know how does judiciary functions then?

    #MPs will select the team? I hope you know that MPs are the richest members of any party who become "elected representatives" by spending tonnes of wealth. How are they supposed to find the "best" people to run an anti-curroption bureau. Its like saying, let all the judges in the country by selected by a college of MPs who everyone know run according to their party wishes.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Dear Friend,

    thanks to make us understand the lokpal bill.

    ReplyDelete
  10. A very good thought piece ... i believe that with the hype surrounding this bill and Anna's efforts to get it passed, loads of people are out there trying to gather support for it, while only a handful actually wanna discuss it. In fact, the very people marching the streets with slogan's of "bharat mata ki jai" have never even READ the proposed bill's draft. Also, a number of the proposal's made by Anna's version of the bill will bring the country's financial reserves to its knees. Moreover, i simply cannot support the maximum penalty of a life sentence in cases of corruption simply because there are many rapist's currently in prison who are serving that sentence, and regardless of how evil the act of corruption may be, i believe it can never amount to the act of rape.

    Having said that, i would not support your proposal's or the government's version of the bill on the ground's that they are both toothless. The whole idea behind launching a lokpal is to set it free from the clutches of the government, and therefore any involvement of a politician in its workings would completely negate its effect. The idea here is to create a country free from corruption, and that includes the government, but as long as the people in power continue to consider themselves as being above the law, they simply cannot in any respect be made to be a part of the very body that intends to restore law and order.

    ReplyDelete
  11. sir, I respect ur opinion but i don't think that giving them one more chance is gonna help us out. there is the need of a change... we can effectively overcome the drawbacks of jan lokpal bill by making some changes..

    ReplyDelete

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.