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Lokpal can act as deterrent

The enactment of the Jan Lokpal Bill was the result of the Congress' eleventh-hour attempt to refurbish its image after the poll results in four states. Manoranjan Kalia writes.

chandigarh Updated: Jan 02, 2014 09:38 IST
Manoranjan Kalia
Manoranjan Kalia
Hindustan Times

The enactment of the Jan Lokpal Bill was the result of the Congress' eleventh-hour attempt to refurbish its image after the poll results in four states. The oneupmanship between the 'guru-chela' (Anna Hazare and Arvind Kejriwal) after the emergence of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) as the second largest party in Delhi culminated in the resumption of Hazare's fast-unto-death for pressing the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) to pass the Bill.

This spurred the Congress into action. In view of the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections, all major political parties tried to out-Herod Herod by backing the anti-corruption stand during the debate in Parliament. Hence, the Bill was passed in Parliament without much hassle on December 18.

Lokpal, a Sanskrit word which means caretaker/protector of people, was coined by Dr LM Singhvi in 1963.

The Lokpal was justified not only for removing a sense of injustice from the minds of citizens but also to instil public confidence in the efficiency of the administrative machinery.

The ombudsman system relies heavily on the selection of an appropriate individual for the office and on the cooperation of at least some effective official from within the apparatus of the state.

Constitutional ombudsman
The concept of a constitutional ombudsman was first proposed in Parliament by then union law minister Ashoke Kumar Sen in the early 1960s. The first Jan Lokpal Bill was proposed by Shanti Bhushan in 1968 and passed in the fourth Lok Sabha in 1969, but not in the Rajya Sabha.

Subsequently, Lokpal bills were introduced in 1971, 1977, 1985, 1989, 1996, 1998, 2001, 2005 and 2008, yet these were never passed. Fifty-two years after its introduction, the Lokpal was finally passed in 2013. The Lokpal will have counterparts (Lokayuktas) in all states of India.

At the time of ending his fast-unto-death after the enactment of the Jan Lokpal Bill, Hazare said 50% of corruption would be reduced, which means that Hazare himself is not fully confident about the ability of the Act to eradicate the menace of corruption lock, stock and barrel. The million-dollar question is: Will the Jan Lokpal Act serve its purpose?

The Constitution has a provision for oath of office and secrecy to be taken either solemnly or in the name of God for every constitutional office. The rationale behind the oath is that the nature of the constitutional office, be that of President, Prime Minister, chief minister, minister, MP or MLA, is such that the working of these constitutional posts cannot be delineated into right and wrong.

The person holding these offices is expected to discharge the duties keeping in view the interests of the country or the state. The people of the country are the best judge to assess the working of the elected representative discharging constitutional duties every five years. The change of a government or an elected representative or re-election thereafter is the unchangeable law in the democratic setup for checks and balances.

Objective system
Elected representative or appointees on the constitutional post also come from society and are amenable to virtues or vices, like the common man.

Though care has been taken in the Act to evolve an objective system for selecting a suitable person for the post of Lokpal by constituting a committee comprising the Prime Minister, Lok Sabha speaker, Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, Chief Justice of India and an eminent jurist, yet the Lokpal has to be chosen from society.

As far as the individual commission or omission of a public man holding a constitutional post are concerned, there are, even before the said enactment, many instances of conviction or penalisation through our judicial system.

The value system of our country gives the concept of Ram Rajya, which Mahatma Gandhi also endorsed. The concept of Ram Rajya does not mean that Lord Ram will come and rule society.

In Treta Yuga, when Lord Ram went to the forest for 14 years, Ayodhya was governed by his Kharron (sleepers) through his brother Bharat. It was the period of de facto Ram Rajya, meaning that every person on a responsible post discharges his duties as per what the office warrants, which our scriptures call Dharma.

The enactment of the Lokpal Act definitely gives additional strength to the judicial system to cover public officials, including members of Parliament and ministers, and will also have a deterrent effect, but the real strength of good governance and administration lies in adhering to Dharma in letter and spirit. For the forms of government, let fools contest; whatever is best administered is the best.

The writer is a national executive member of the BJP and an MLA from Jalandhar.

First Published: Jan 02, 2014 09:33 IST