The war against corruption spearheaded by noted activist Anna Hazare augurs well for India and its citizens.
The increase in number of corruption cases – or the role of a handful of whistleblowers who had helped in the exposés of these cases – in recent months, had contributed to a sense of cynicism across the nation. The lack of political will had only added to the owes of the common man.
The Jan Lok Pal Bill, if drafted and introduced, can provide the answer to the nation’s call for a corruption-free society.
The proposed bill promises quick justice: Investigations into any case will be completed within a year; the corrupt will be behind bars within two years of the complaint being lodged; and the ill-gotten wealth would be confiscated.
The Bill provides for creating an institution called Lokpal at the Centre and Lokayukta at the state level and would have the authority to prosecute the corrupt on a fast-track basis. The Lokpal will be an independent body along the lines of the Supreme Court and Election Commission, with no government interference.
“No minister or bureaucrat will be able to influence their investigations,’’ explains Srikant Bhagat a member of the India Against Corruption campaign.
The draft created jointly by former Supreme Court judge and present Karnataka Lokayukta Santosh Hegde, senior SC lawyer Prashant Bhushan and activist Arvind Kejriwalseek would render the Lok Pal as a super cop with powers over even elected representatives.
Some of the key features include:
# Trial against corrupt people will be completed in one year: Investigations in any case will have to be completed in one year. Trial should be completed in next one year so that the corrupt politician, officer or judge is sent to jail within two years. The loss that a corrupt person caused to the government will be recovered at the time of conviction.
# The citizen gets more power: If any work of any citizen is not done within the prescribed time in any government office, Lokpal will impose financial penalty on guilty officers, which will be given as compensation to the complainant.
The common man will have the option of approaching the Lokpal if the issuing authority of a ration card, passport or voter’s identity card asks for a bribe to get your work done or the police does not register your complaint or an official does not process one’s application within a stipulated time frame. The Lokpal will pronounce its judgment within a month in such cases.
One could also report a case of corruption to Lokpal like black marketing of foodgrain that should be distributed through the local fair price shop, poor construction quality of roads or panchayat funds being siphoned off. The Lokpal will have to complete his investigations within a year and the trial in the following year to ensure conviction within two years.
# Appointment of Lokpal: Members will be selected by judges, citizens and constitutional authorities and not by politicians, through a completely transparent and participatory process.
# Action against Lok Pal: Any complaint against any Lokpal official shall be investigated and the officer dismissed within two months.
# Existing anti-corruption agencies to merge with Lok Pal: CVC, departmental vigilance and anti-corruption branch of CBI will be merged with the Lokpal. The body will have complete powers and machinery to independently investigate and prosecute any officer, judge or politician.
It will be the duty of the Lokpal to provide protection to those who are being victimised for raising their voice against corruption.
Championing a cause
A strong and effective Lok Pal Act will help bring to book those who have become more and more brazen with their acts of corruption and provide a strong deterrent to malpractice in governance and arbitrary use of power.
Swami Agnivesh who has been in the forefront of the campaign for the Lok Pal Bill said their demand for a joint committee with representation of the civil society for drafting the Bill was nothing new. The Constitution itself was drafted by a group of citizens who were not politicians or bureacrats.
The civil society, however, seems to be divided on both the content of the Bill and the method of drafting it.
Aruna Roy of Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS) today issued a statement against the process being adopted by the government to draft the bill: “Bypassing democratic processes for political expediency however desirable the outcome, may be detrimental to democracy itself. Thus our focus is not on ensuring that there is 50 per cent representation for civil society with members of the GoM who are entrusted with drafting the Bill, but to demand that the Government immediately announce its intention to pass a strong Lok Pal Legislation based on wide public consultations.”