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Civil society demands an effective Lokpal

india Updated: Dec 03, 2010 18:46 IST

The voice against corruption is increasingly becoming pro-active. Recently, a group of activists, backed by people from all cross-sections of the Indian society, went beyond just the rhetoric and drafted a Lokpal Bill to plug loopholes in the Indian anti-corruption system. They then forwarded the Bill to the Prime Minister with a request to make it a law.

The two cornerstones of Indian enforcement infrastructure are the Central Bureau of Investigation and the Chief Vigilance Commission. Unfortunately, both have been rendered ineffective due to the way they have been setup. The CVC is independent but does not have powers. The CBI has powers but is not independent. As a result, the first cannot punish while the latter cannot investigate fairly. Therefore, there is an urgent need for an effective alternative. The government is purportedly working on a bill to setup such an agency with the name of Lokpal. However, it seeks to make the Lokpal an advisory body without jurisdiction over bureaucracy. These provisions will make the Lokpal ineffective.

Six features are necessary for effectiveness of the Lokpal - independence from the government, complete jurisdiction over the executive, powers to investigate without prior permission, ability to prosecute without restrictions, capability of recovering losses from a convicted public servant, and protection to whistleblowers. These features are enshrined in the alternative draft Lokpal Bill put together by the activist group with the advice of a number of relevant experts such as Santosh Hegde, a former Supreme Court judge and the Lokayukta of Karnataka, Mr. Pratyush Sinha, a former CVC, and Prashant Bhushan, an eminent Supreme Court Lawyer.

The activist group also has drafted Lokayukta Bill for state governments on similar lines and requested all the Chief Ministers to make it a law. It has also requested the Prime Minister to enact the Lokayukta law through Parliament to enforce it in all states.

Members of the group have sought broader public support.

Kiran Bedi announced that the group will spearhead a movement with the name of “India Against Corruption” or “Bhrashtachar ke Virudh Janyudh”. She exhorted people to participate, and sought their inputs on the alternative Lokpal Bill is available on the movement’s website - . She emphasized, “We want it to be really a people’s bill.”

Swami Ramdev underscored the magnitude of the problem by asserting that the country has suffered severely from the loot committed by a variety of people. He urged a collective fight against the evil forces. He also exhorted all political parties to rise above politics and fight corruption.

Arvind Kejriwal gets inspiration from an anti-corruption success story. He said, “When corruption reached its peak in Hong Kong in the 70s, its government created an Independent Commission Against Corruption armed with required powers. The Commission sacked 103 out of 107 police officers right away sending a strong signal to everyone. The commission followed up effectively and made Hong Kong one of the most honest countries.” He added, “It is also possible for India to turn around with the help of a similar independent commission.”

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar emphasized that spiritual leaders typically avoid commentary on the government. He added that given dire situation, they could not remain mute spectators. Swami Agnivesh and Anna Hazare proclaimed that the movement will resort to protests if required.

The activist group has been working against corruption in a committed manner. Recently, it filed requests to register FIRs with the Parliamentary police station and the CBI against corruption in the Commonwealth Games. It also plans move courts to order the filing of FIRs in the case.

[As per discussions with the activist group]

(Views expressed by the author are personal)