Corruption is the main focus of the much-awaited second Administrative Reforms Commission (ARC) spearheaded by Veerappa Moily. Some of its provisions are bound to rub the political establishment, the bureaucracy and the judiciary the wrong way. Some of the main provisions that will cause disquiet relate to the appointment of a National Judicial Commission that could bypass the judiciary, bringing all Union and chief ministers under the Rashtriya Lokayukta and do away with prior sanction for prosecuting public servants in disproportionate assets cases.
Another controversial recommendation is to do away with the MLAs and MPs Local Area Development Scheme (MPLADS). Mid-term realignments of political formations will also be barred if the Moily report’s recommendations are implemented. All these proposals will go down well with a public that is increasingly intolerant of politicians and public servants being a law unto themselves. The decision to do away with MPLADS will make governance more transparent and do away with a multiplicity of authorities in disbursing funds for local assistance. The scheme infringes on the right of local governments at a time when devolution of power is the buzzword.
The need to bring the Prime Minister under the scanner of the Lokayukta has been debated long and loud. The ARC’s decision to leave him out is based on valid reasons, though many may not approve of them. Any inquiry into the PM’s official conduct by any body other than Parliament would undermine his ability to lead the government. Since the ARC’s prime motive is accountability to the public, weakening the PM could lead to a crisis of governance that would have a negative fallout on public interest. The report also seeks to set at rest the controversy over the office of profit issue. It has been suggested that office of profit be defined in a manner that prevents any legislator from holding an office that involves control of public funds.
So far, so good. But now comes the real test. With so many powerful sections affected by the report’s recommendations, how do we ensure that they are implemented? These reforms have the potential to sweep away much of the detritus of corruption and sloth in our system. It would be a pity if they were derailed by vested interests.