Anna Hazare and Jan Lokpal Bill may fail

The idea of the first Jan Lokpal Bill dates back to as early as 1969, yet this democratic bill was always denied by the pseudo democratic government of India for the last 42 years. None of the Lokpal bills introduced again and again in 1971, 1977, 1985, 1989, 1996, 1998, 2001, 2005 and 2008 passed the approval nod of our great Indian leaders simply because it threatened the supreme powers that the rulers have always enjoyed.

The latest Jan Lokpal bill, drafted by Shanti Bhushan, former IPS Kiran Bedi, Justice N. Santosh Hegde, advocate Prashant Bhushan, former chief election commissioner J. M. Lyngdoh in consultation with the leaders of the India Against Corruption movement and the civil society,  proposes to create an effective anti-corruption and grievance  handling system by forming an independent body with power to investigate and punish corruption. With 73 years old Gandhian Anna Hazare ’s determination to bring this bill into reality through his fast to death and every section of the media supporting him, millions of people are dreaming already to erase corruption and bring down the misuse of power by politicians. But this bill, as we see is not without its own set of risks and failure modes.

Some of these risks that need attention, as per the salient features of the Lokpal bill are:

1. Formation of Independent Institutions (Lokpal in the center and Lokayukta in each state) like the Supreme Court and the Election Commission, which will act on its own to investigate and punish corruption and the corrupted.

• It is being claimed that no politician or minister would be able to influence the decision of the Lokpal or Lokayukta because its members will be selected by judges, citizens and constitutional authorities and not by politicians or ministers, through a completely transparent and democratic process. But it is a similar transparent and democratic process of the country that elects and puts the same corrupted politicians and leaders to power in every election! When people themselves select corrupted leaders to power, the justification that the people again will select their representative to fight those same corrupted leaders is really weak.
• According to the bill, any complaint against any officer of Lokpal shall be investigated and the officer dismissed within two months. The idea sounds good, but if some official of Lokpal is indeed found guilty and punished, the public trust on the system itself would be damaged. For example, in rural north east, the people still do not trust the Indian army because of the rapes and killings which it had done in the past, though some of those accused have been punished. The world always accuses the Pakistani cricket team to have fixed a match when they lose, just because a few of their players were found guilty of match fixing and punished in the past.
• The risk of corruption within Lokpal/ Lokayukta itself cannot be ruled out. As per the bill, entire working of Lokpal/ Lokayukta will be transparent to the public, but even working of Government agencies are supposed to be transparent which is not because of corruption within. If the officials of Lokpal or Lokayukta are bribed secretly or bought with huge amount of money, the entire idea of this establishment is destroyed.

2. As per the Jan Lokpal Bill, all current anti – corruption agencies like the CVC, departmental vigilance and anti-corruption branch of CBI will be merged into Lokpal. The idea is appealing since the functioning of CBI and vigilance departments has always been secret and never transparent enough of the public. But ,

•  If CVC, departmental vigilance and anti-corruption branch of CBI will be merged into Lokpal, who will actually head the Lokpal? If the CBI or the Vigilance officers continue to call the shots and take decisions, this means it’s the Government again, this time indirectly, who is doing investigations!
•  On current date, even if a CBI or Vigilance finds proof of corruption against the top politicians or ministers, it is nearly impossible to put the accused behind bars because of the diplomatic, political and influence from the Government. With CBI, CVC, etc coming together to form a Lokpal, their officials would continue to be direct or indirect central government servants. So the same problems would continue as present.
•  With merging of the different independent bodies (CVC, departmental vigilance and anti-corruption branch of CBI), there would be extensive differences in questions over authority, utilization of resources and efficiency of the entire new department might be in stake.
•  The biggest risk would be prominent when a people-elected body comprising of good and clean names in the civil society but having no prior experience of administration of such bodies are given the sole power of running, managing, monitoring and implementing actions of this entire function.

3. As per the bill, investigation of any case will have to be completed in one year and trial should be completed in next one year. The idea is that in a maximum of two years, the corrupt officer or politician should go to jail.

•  The idea is correct as Justice delayed is justice denied indeed. But what happens to the tens of thousands of other judicial cases of people which the courts have to deal with every year. The country is already known to have a bad name for delaying justice or giving decisions on judicial cases because of its constraints with different resources. Although it would be a great idea to complete all Lokpal driven corruption cases within two years, it should never be at the cost of delaying other cases of the common people. Setting up the right infrastructure and resources is a must here.

4. The loss that a corrupt person caused to the people or to the government will be recovered at the time of conviction. This looks like a great idea as there is currently no recovery of the corrupt wealth and a person punished for corruption can enjoy this wealth after returning from his conviction.

•  But what is not clear yet and what needs to be taken into account is the nature of the recovery of corrupted wealth invested in assets like private educational institution, private medical college or trade and business that involves large scale employment. For example, corrupted ministers of several states are known to invest in opening private engineering and medical colleges. If investigations reveal that the institution was developed out of black money from corruption, what would be the fate of the college? It cannot be closed down for the reason that it will destroy career of the students, nor would the Government be able to take over it. In another example if a minister is found guilty of corruption, what happens to his private news channel? Would it be sold off to recover the money? What would happen to the employees working for their bread and butter? The list of examples is endless. So although it is must to recover corrupted wealth, it is utmost necessary that the nature of such recovery is defined well.

5.  If any work of any citizen is not done within agreed time in any government office, Lokpal will impose financial penalty on guilty officers, which will be paid as compensation to the complainant. This step will act as a great measure as well as drive efficiency in different Government departments. It would be a welcome move for the people who have to pay bribe to get anything done in a government office. But the same time,

•  This step ensures that Lokpal has the highest power of authority over all Government departments, which will mean that Lokpal becomes a parallel Government in itself. This in itself is a risk where the Government and the Lokpal, both selected by people, would try to exercise their power of dominance or authority over each other.
•  Lokpal imposing financial penalty on officers for not completing work in time can be challenged in the court by the government departments or by the officers themselves with genuine reasons or excuses. This will increase the queue of judicial cases in the country and eat up substantial time and energy of both parties.

We salute Anna Hazare for his tremendous efforts against corruption in the country, but at the same time we fear that simply making the bill pass through the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha are not going to be enough. If the risks are not assessed well and practical measures not put into place, this bill can actually turn out only to be an immature step rather than a practical solution to destroy corruption. Last thing we need is one more democratic Frankenstein, arising out of emotion, in the country.

Priyankan Goswami

Priyankan Goswami is the Editor of Times of Assam’s Political Analysis section. He is also founder member and member of the Executive board of Times of Assam.
By Academic Priyankan Goswami is MBA & Mechanical Engineer.

10 Responses to "Anna Hazare and Jan Lokpal Bill may fail"

  1. Ashwani Kumar  April 9, 2011 at 09:25 AM

    We agree with the same.

    Reply
  2. Hemen Parekh  April 9, 2011 at 09:26 AM

    Let us Institutionalize

    By terrorizing beaurocrats throug his Red Brigade, Chairman Mao of China wiped out corruption within months.

    But corruption returned within a few months of his death – and how !

    Today, China is amongst one of the most corrupt countries in the world.

    Nothing that is centered on an individual survives for long.

    This is why Anna Hazare wants a stringent Jan Lokpal bill so that his anti-corruption crusade gets institutionalized.

    Let us further mandate that all mobile phones already sold / to be sold in India, has following built-in “ Speed Dialing “ to connect to local authorities as follows:

     # 7……………….. Police

     # 8…………………Consumer Protection Cell

     # 9………………..Lok-Ayukt

    That will enable 780 million mobile owners to knock at the doors of justice within seconds.

    Youth of India ! You must take the lead with some out-of-the-box thinking / action.

    With regards

    Hemen Parekh

    Reply
  3. Edward  April 9, 2011 at 11:12 AM

    WHY THIS PESSIMISTIC TITLE ??

    Reply
  4. Mohd Danish  April 9, 2011 at 01:16 PM

    The points revealing the weaklinks in the draft Jan Lokpal bill are well thought of and deserve applause. I think these counter points should be consider while filnalising the bill.

    Reply
  5. Sudipta Kumar Gogoi  April 12, 2011 at 01:05 PM

    It is time to reawaken your own thoughts against corruption. Mere setups of moral policemen will not yield any fruitful results. Time is to relook your own self against corruption instead of hurling words against them. The time is for your self evaluation and not the evaluation of systems.

    Reply
  6. Lucky  August 15, 2011 at 05:38 PM

    In my opinion we should not indulge in any argument about bad or good of jan lokepal bill. If any thing bad is their in jan lokepal bill it will be looked after latter on when time will come, which will take another 5 to 10 year. As a Indian i respect Indian Govt & his decision.

    Reply
  7. Amit Choudary  August 16, 2011 at 01:32 PM

    An open letter to Rahul Gandhi
    Dear Rahul,
    I write as someone who has followed your entry into active politics closely, as someone who would like to believe that you mean well & that you would like to make a difference. I also write as someone who can’t help but notice how lacking in administrative experience & aptitude members of the civil society appear to be, or how their views on the Jan Lokpal Bill sound alarmingly simplistic to cynical ears. However, even if their pursuit appears quixotic to some, the man on the streets believes that its not a windmill they are charging at but a monster.
    We are all anti-corruption. I am, you are & so was your father. His entry into Indian politics was like a breath of fresh-air & we were all rooting for him in his attempt to project himself as the Mr.Clean of India’s murky polity. It took a lot of courage for a Prime-Minister to admit that no more than 15 paise out of every rupee spent by the government actually reached the intended beneficiaries. I think a lot of people, including myself, thought it a tremendous loss to see him get trapped by the very system he seemed to be trying to change. That he didn’t get another chance to implement his vision was our collective loss.
    Your visible attempts at reaching out to the downtrodden, the conducting of transparent & democratic intra-party elections in the Youth Congress would have me believe that you intend to do more than just pay lip-service to the oft-repeated adages of “Garibi Hatao” & “Congress ka hath garibo ke sath”. But just as people are frequently more comfortable with old problems than they are with new solutions, you seem to be vary of subjecting the party machinery to radical invasive surgery that is long overdue. You seem unsure of what could be exorcised & what must remain. Now I know its much too easy for someone like me to say this from a distance but your party’s mass-base is not held up by its “old-hands” (I shall not use “stalwarts” for their kind), but by the goodwill of the people. While India craves leadership, what you will learn at their hands is politics. And politicians, I might add, do not make very good teachers. The teacher never trusts the student enough to tell him all & the student pulls the rug from under the teacher’s feet so that the one who made him may not prove to be his undoing.
    History is littered with politicians, & ofcourse they have held power most of the time, but you who are born to a very special destiny could be so much more! You, who could have been the country’s premier as soon as you reached the minimum age required by the constitution; Is becoming yet another one of India’s Prime-Ministers a worthy ambition for you? If you could find the courage to show the door to the old-order, only then will the new truly be yours.
    The way things appear right now, your party seems to be targeting an anti-corruption crusade as if it were fighting for its own dear life. To a common-man’s eyes, the shenanigans of your party’s old-order have ensured that the Congress looks like the very embodiment of corruption. And your silence only makes it worse.
    I realize that you are going through a very trying time in your personal life. As someone who has lost his mother to cancer, I can empathise with your predicament. But this is so much bigger than any individual! This truly is a historic opportunity, & if India were to lose it, you & your family’s good-name will be besmirched forever. An entire generation will see you as the protectors of the corrupt.
    Across the spectrum people are drawing parallels between this government’s treatment of the activists to the British treatment of the Mahatma. Is that really the legacy you crave for yourself?
    To most of those who are considered pillars of this establishment, none of this would matter as they are little better than vultures feasting on a mountain of India’s woes. They do not represent any human or social constituency, but buy & steal elections. Bribing an impoverished electorate is not the same as representing them.
    As someone whose birth ensures what others spend a lifetime trying to get close to, I write to you in the hope that to you this would make a difference.
    The very least the civil-society deserves is respectful & patient hearing. The very least this country deserves is for its law-enforcement to stop being a toothless circus-lion .
    Ashoka’s Lion Capital was adopted as a symbol of the Indian state by the makers of the constitution. For decades they have stood defanged & helpless. When they roar, the vultures laugh.
    We must change that.
    Yours sincerely,
    A hopeful common-man
    15/08/11

    Amit Choudary, Jaipur
    amit.choudary@gmail.com

    Reply
  8. Bhaskar Borpujari  August 17, 2011 at 09:43 AM

    We should support Ann as he is fighting for us and our upcoming generation. Keep it up we are always with you. JAI HIND ANNA…

    Reply
  9. Simar  August 17, 2011 at 10:31 AM

    Let us put our effort…. We should not put hand on hand.if the results are not going to be good as you see today but the efforts must be put what i suggest.A person should not do anything if he always forecast the result. Some new initiatives will come out from the today’s youth.Lets satart with ANNA..

    Simarpreet Singh

    Reply
  10. Anand Agrawal  August 21, 2011 at 08:30 PM

    – I just dont understand y z der a debate wat will happen if the Lokpal himself becomes too powerful. History tells us dat institutions lik CVC, CBI etc whch had weak foundations failed to serve der purpose. Y do we want to make dos mistakes agn.. If we have to err, lets err dis time on d stronger side. If lokpal sumday starts misusing its power n position den der can be checks imposed in him as well.. Its like saying even though we sweat more in summer but we sudnt drink more water. Getting dehydrated by maintaining normal level of water intake z better.

    – N nobody in Team Anna z saying dat dey r more learned or enlightened den everyone else in dis country. Dey did wat dey cud 2 involve more n more people by conducting surveys, asking suggestions etc. Infact i want 2 ask other “civil society members” who has appeared in last few days- where dey were when the government invited team anna for joint draft committee. They sud hv come forward den saying dey also hv a separate view n include dem also. May be d govt wud hv cum wid a bill whch was worth discussing. Wats d intention behind suddenly appearing n accusing team anna now.

    – N y r pepl not asking questions from d govt n politicians. D bill has been hanging since last 42yrs when thousand other bills were being passed. Congress party hv been in power for more den 45 yrs n dey r blaming every other party who were in centre only for one term (n not even dat in case of left n 3rd front). Even in dis term, dey dint prepare or present d bill in loksabha until anna fasted. Y dint dey ask 4 pepl opinion thru ads before masses came out in support of anna. Does it all not show a lack of commitment n conspiracy on der part just 2 delay d passing of dis bill further.

    Reply

Leave your Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.