Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Who loses if India wins - Lok Satta’s plea for resolute action on Lokpal

The Lokpal / Lokayukta debate has reached the final stage, with the Parliament due to vote on the Bill by December 29.

Anna’s leadership has galvanized the middle classes and youth across the country, and sensitized the political parties and government to the urgent need for resolute action. The Lokpal, Lokayuktas Bill presented to Parliament is a vast improvement on the past Bills, and is directly a product of civil society involvement and public pressure.

However, this Bill has serious lacunae which need to be addressed before the law is enacted.

  1. The Lokpal / Lokayuktas have no powers of suo-motu enquiry. Such powers are vital to enhance the efficacy of these ombudsmen, and ability to gather intelligence, particularly about collusive corruption. If a complaint of a citizen is mandatory, many cases of gross corruption may escape attention as false, frivolous or vexatious complaints will invite penalties (Section 46 of the Bill). In many cases, there can only be grave suspicion and circumstantial evidence, and direct evidence of corruption will not be forthcoming. Absence of powers of suo-motu enquiry will convert Lokpal/ Lokayukta into a reactive, passive post-office. We need pro-active, innovative ombudsman. The earlier Bill provided for suo-motu enquiry. There is no rational explanation for its deletion in the Bill now, and this omission should be rectified.

  2. Lokayukta should be part of the central law as envisaged in the present Bill. Article 253 clearly gives parliament the power to make legislation since the United Nations Convention Against Corruption has been ratified by India on May 1, 2011. The argument that such a provision in a central law is against federalism is disingenuous. We cannot have a movement in every state to create Lokayukta. In any case, this Bill is a part of procedural law dealing with investigations and prosecution of corruption offences. This is entirely within the Parliament’s jurisdiction. The power of appoint the Lokayukta and other related matters vest in the States. Creation of Lokayuktas is the need of the hour, and any efforts to delete Lokayukta provisions from the central law should be firmly resisted and rebuffed.

  3. It is vital to have Local Ombudsmen in States under Lokayukta’s control and supervision. These local ombudsmen, one per district, can deal with lower bureaucracy, and will report to Lokayukta. Thus, jurisdiction over local bureaucracy will vest in Lokayukta even as the institution is not swamped by cases of petty corruption.

  4. Anti-Corruption Bureaux at State level are completely untouched by the present Bill. Unless they are directly under Lokayukta’s superintendence, status quo will continue and they will be politically manipulated. Unlike in case of the CBI, the appointments of ACB director and senior officials are completely under political control in states. The appointment of director of CBI by a collegiums of PM, Leader of Opposition and Chief Justice of India is a vast improvement. Officials of CBI are appointed under CVC Act by a collegiums headed by full CVC. In states no such provisions exist. It is vital that ACB is brought under Lokayukta’s superintendence.

  5. Section 6A of the Delhi Police Special Establishment Act, Section 19 of Prevention of Corruption Act, and Section 197 of CrPC continue unchanged, and only cases referred by Lokpal / Lokayukta are exempted from these legal impediments. CBI and ACB are rendered ineffective to act independently in respect of cases directly taken up by them. This is a travesty of rule of law, and makes these agencies helpless in combating corruption. These three provisions should be completely repealed. If any prior sanction of prosecution is deemed necessary, such powers should be vested in the Lokpal / Lokayukta.

All these improvements are rational, balanced, and in public interest. There is no case to deny these amendments. Until these changes are incorporated, the Bill before Parliament continues to be defective. Therefore, Anna is right in arguing for improvements in the law before enactment.

We have come a long distance over the past few months – thanks to public pressure and enlightened political response. Both people and Parliament are partners, not adversaries. We now need wisdom and foresight to do the right thing and inspire confidence in the nation that public interest is fully protected. In pursuit of this goal, we are all one – there is no distinction of party, creed, region or language. There is no civil society – politician divide. We all stand together for this common cause.

We earnestly appeal to all the political parties and Members of Parliament to set aside their differences and act in concert decisively to create a durable, strong, independent machinery all across the nation to exorcise the canker of corruption from our body politic. This is a priceless opportunity to move India into a higher orbit, and it should not be squandered.

As Jawaharlal Nehru admonished us wisely, “Who loses if India wins; And who gains if India loses!”

Dr Jayaprakash Narayan

Lok Satta


  1. 1. Suo moto powers don't make any sense since lokpal is not an investigative agency. nothing prevents CBI or CVC from acting on their own and conduct such secret and suo moto inquiries. why should every organization in the country indulge in such vigilance activity?

    2. I thought Loksatta was a party committed to decentralization and federalism. how can you support forcing a Lokayukta legislation on the states merely because civil society cannot go and protest in every state? Loksatta can very well protest in every state. count me in.

    3. Let states experiment with local ombudsmen or even panchayat level ombudsmen when they enact Lokayukta acts. Central govt has already done its bit by requiring social audits in schemes funded by the Union. Now its time for the states to get their act together. And many states have indeed enacted better Lokayukta acts.

    4. The Union govt has done its job by improving the procedure to appoint the CBI director. Now let the states do their part with ACBs. You yourself can move an amendment to the concerned law in the Andhra Assembly to achieve this.

    5. The point is, as you yourself say, cases under Lokpal are not constrained by these approval requirements. Amendments or repeal of other laws are unrelated to this Lokpal bill, no?

    The IAC group should definitely be complemented for raising the issue of corruption and demanding the passing of the Lokpal bill.

    However, the govt and the Parliament should also be commended for not giving into blackmail and resisting many of the undemocratic and unconstitutional demands made by that group. From Noble laureates appointing lokpal, to creating a frankenstein monster which will investigate, prosecute and judge all by itself, to utterly unimplementable suggestions like grievance redressal, group c/d under lokpal, to the latest demand to usurp CBI ... most of Anna Hazare's demands have been rejected by parliament. We should indeed be thankful.

  2. Lokpal, Lokyuktas should have investigative powers. Lokpal implementation should not be at the discretion of the states. Cannot afford it.

  3. It was disappointing again to see Shri. Jayaprakash Narayan support imposition of Lokayutas on the states by force under article 253.

    Shouldn't we consider the letter and the spirit of the constitution while enacting laws? Are these international conventions ratified by parliament? Are they even debated in parliament? Merely because the executive signs some convention, should we force structural changes on the state governments?

    Its not as if India signed an international convention about Ombudsmen. It was a general one about corruption. Let the states decide how to deal with corruption. If the Union govt agrees that no territory of the union shall be used for human trafficking, then we can insist that states have proper laws in place. Even Money Laundering bill which you quoted as precedence, is inherently a subject of the union, for the integrity of the money has both national and international ramifications. To say that the Union can force States to create Ombudsmen and that too in some exact prescribed format (when 18 states already have lokayukta legislations in place) is a clear violation of the spirit and even the letter of the constitution.

    One expects better from a liberal party (Loksatta) committed to decentralization than supporting such a position. The Union cabinet made a mistake in using article 253 to somehow placate Anna Hazare and as a matter of convenience rammed it through the Loksabha. It should be under 252 after two states have requested the same. Or else the bill should only have concerned itself with Lokpal and not Lokayuktas. It is a mistake, that needs to be corrected.

  4. Mr Balaji, Why have Article 253 then in constitution? BJP has used 253 in the past for money laundering bill. They are just opposing for the sake of opposing. How many more years will you wait before you get strong lokayukthas?