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HindustanTimes Wed,01 Oct 2014

People's power changes India forever

Kiran Bedi, Hindustan Times  Chandigarh, December 22, 2013
First Published: 22:15 IST(22/12/2013) | Last Updated: 23:37 IST(22/12/2013)

Will lokpal be a harbinger of change or is it a jokepal as some went public without reading the changes which had been brought about by the select committee of Parliament. It was these improvements which Anna Hazare and his associates accepted and welcomed it as the right beginning.

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Getting the Lokpal was an impossible mission made possible by a collective effort of millions, led by Anna, over the past three years. Akin to an assembly line, some played a pivotal role while others supportive in the passing of the lokpal. Some initiated it and stayed on, some fought for it but left it after getting frustrated, and some came in between and stayed on till the end.

Had Parliament passed this law soon after independence, the country would have been the world's largest and most prosperous democracy. It would not have had the criminal and corrupt elected on money power collected by abuse of position, enslaving bureaucracy, but honest and visionary statesmen of the calibre of those who led India to freedom from the colonial rule. They would have valued what they had inherited, and not destroyed it and made themselves rich and powerful at the cost of the poor.

The country lost trillions since independence that belonged to the country's poor. It was time to end this. The crusade started with several activists coming together. Undoubtedly, Anna had a core team of a few to be the face of the India against Corruption movement on strategy, organisation and mobilisation.

Starting January 2011, the India against Corruption movement was demanding, along with other demands, independence of the CBI, India's premier investigating agency, on corruption matters. Since independence, it was politically controlled and manipulated. It had lost trust over the years to an extent that a time came when the Supreme Court started to oversee key investigations, latest being the Coalgate. It repeatedly averred that it hoped to see a caged parrot set free.

Analysing lokpal

So what is the lokpal today as passed by Parliament? Let's analyse and see if it is worth it. Will it be able to deliver and punish the high and mighty? Will it send out a larger message of fear and deterrence? Will chances of getting caught and punished and even losing ill-gotten wealth be strong? Will there be a change in the way bureaucrats deliver or the ministers dispense their discretionary powers with a sense of equity?

Let's begin with how lokpal will change the way the CBI works.

Appointment of director

Earlier, it was entirely in the hands of the government. Now, it will be by a collegium of the Prime Minister, Chief Justice of India and the Leader of Opposition. (Hence it takes away unilateralism).

On investigation

Whatever matter is entrusted by the lokpal to the CBI, the investigating agency will only report the matter to the lokpal. It will have its own prosecution wing and can choose lawyers from the lokpal approved panel. (Takes away any interference or influence of the government even in this sphere)

On sanctions

For instance, in the Adarsh Society scam, the Maharashtra governor has declined to accord sanction to the CBI to proceed against scam officers. With lokpal in place, no sanction will be needed. The lokpal will proceed on merits of the case. It can order a preliminary inquiry or investigation from the CBI or any other agency. The law permits search or seizure of assets if suspected to be from corruption money, according to circumstances of each case.

Composition of lokpal

They will be appointed by a selection committee, comprising the Prime Minister, Chief Justice of India, Speaker and an eminent jurist. This collegium will be supported by a search committee. It will comprise eight members - four from judiciary and four with expertise of law, investigation, finance, vigilance, anti-corruption, etc. There will also be due representation from the SCs, STs and women. (Just one CBI director is now replaced by eight independent members).

Expenditure

The government will provide all such expenditure which, in the opinion of the CBI director, is necessary to conduct a fair investigation. (It cuts out all existing red tape and makes the CBI director as head of his own organisation.

Prime Minister included

With certain exceptions such as public order, space, defence matters, etc, but not the Prime Minister's Office!

Removal of Lokpal

By the President after a Supreme Court inquiry on a reference from the President on a petition signed by at least 100 MPs.

The Lokpal Act to be a Model Act for all states to pass Lokayukts within a year. Many states till now do not have one. Those which have one can improve them as much as they want it to be.

How do these provisions appear? Are these serious or are these jokes? Should people not have confirmed the provisions before giving misleading statements by terming it as a jokepal?

Lokpal will be like a supreme court against corruption! The message is that no public servant should take his duties lightly anymore. Punishment now shall be a certainty!

This is just the beginning. More is still to come, such as Whistleblower Bill, Citizen Charter and Grievance Redressal, etc.

India has changed, forever! Thanks to people's power!

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