Lodging a complaint against mighty in the government will not be easy even though the government has proposed to increase the jail term for corruption to 10 years, from seven, in the lokpal bill, 2011 introduced for the ninth time, in two decades, in Lok Sabha on Thursday.
The bill provides for imprisonment of between two to five years for and fine of Rs 25,000 to Rs two lakh for making false, frivolous or vexatious complaint and right of the public servant, against whom the complaint has been lodged, to seek compensation from the complainant.
Not only the individual but the entire top brass of the organization, where the complainant is employed, will be liable for similar punishment unless they can prove that the complaint was lodged without their knowledge.
"No action should be taken against the complainant unless his or her malafide intent is proven," said Nikhil De, co-convener of National Campaign for People's Right to Information (NCPRI), which has prepared its version of the Lokpal bill. He was also amazed that the proposed law does not define false, frivolous or vexatious complaint providing scope for harassment of a complainant.
The bill also provides the lokpal the powers to investigate complaints against civil society including non-government organizations and trusts except religious organizations irrespective of whether they receive funding from the government or not. "I fully welcome inclusion of NGOs as they are in public affairs but there is no justification for exclusion of corporate sector, especially with respect to recent scams involving corporate sector," said National Advisory Council member Harsh Mander.
The bill provides for mandatory declaration of assets by all public servants and their family members once a year and to be placed on public domain. Failure to declare assets will be construed as assets acquired by corrupt means with the Lokpal having powers to attach such properties.
Another provision to check corruption is regarding confiscation of "undeclared properties of public servants", which will be deemed to have been obtained through corrupt means. To ensure natural justice, the bill provides that Lokpal will make no recommendation against a public servant unless the person is heard.
In a significant departure from its earlier position, the government has agreed to allow the common man to complain against the chairperson and eight members of the lokpal to the President.
"The chairperson or any other member of the lokpal shall be removed from his office on grounds of misbehaviour after the Supreme Court on a references made to it by the President on a petition signed by 100 MPs or on any petition by a citizen where the president is satisfied that it should be referred," states the bill.
The bill allows the lokpal to initiate investigations on its own without seeking any permission on complaints of corruption received by it and provides for its separate investigation and prosecution wings.
The government bill, however, does not include key demands of the Hazare group. It provides for a probe against the Prime Minister only after he demits office and has kept the judiciary out of lokpal's purview.
It has agreed on Team Anna on increasing the jail term for corruption by public servant from seven to ten years.