The latest attempt by the government to check corruption in high places with its proposed lokpal bill seems to have brought the issue of creation of an anti-corruption ombudsman to the centre stage like never before.
This time it all started with an updated draft of the bill prepared by the law ministry following a reference from the department of personnel and training in September last year.
The fresh draft — for the first time in four decades — proposed to bring the Prime Minister under the ambit of the lokpal, except in matters related to national security, maintenance of public order, national defence and foreign relations.
The timing of the draft bill coincided with many corruption scams coming to light in the months of October-November last year and the civil society activists sensed they could pick holes in the government’s draft.
Why we need Lokpal?
The government’s idea was to blunt the opposition attack on corruption by stating its intention to bring a bill, which could enforce transparency by allowing the citizens for the first time to complain against corrupt ministers and MPs.
Till now, there is no mechanism in the country which provides an opportunity to the common man for exposing corruption in high places. “A bill to provide for the establishment of the institution of lokpal to inquire into allegations of corruption against public functionaries and for matters connected therewith,” stated the definition of the draft bill.
The bill provided for a three-member lokpal consisting of a chairperson who could be a serving or retired Chief Justice of India or a Supreme Court judge. The other two members could be from serving or retired judges from the SC and HCs.
What went wrong?
The initial murmurs of dissent against some provisions of the bill, including the composition of lokpal, slowly grew louder, with the government clearly being on the backfoot. It was a case of bad timing for the government, which was reeling under the 2G, CWG and Adarsh Housing scams when the NGOs turned the heat on lokpal.