Saturday, December 14, 2013

Amended Lokpal Bill welcome despite lacunae: Lok Satta

The Lok Satta Party today welcomed introduction of the amended Lokpal Bill in the Rajya Sabha providing for constitution of a strong, independent and effective institution to combat corruption among politicians and civil servants in the Union Government and Parliament.

In a media statement, Lok Sata Party national President Dr. Jayaprakash Narayan said the amended Lokpal Bill incorporates most of the recommendations made by the Round Table conducted by the Lok Satta in 2011.

The Lokpal Bill in its present form, however, suffers from certain lacunae. For instance, the Government has dropped provisions relating to appointment of Lokayuktas at the State level following opposition from certain parties.

Dr. JP pointed out that real corruption which affects the common man takes place at the State and local levels and it can be tackled only with the creation of strong Lokayuktas at the State level and Ombudsmen at the district level. The Government of India, having ratified the UN Convention against Corruption, is empowered to enact a law providing for strong anti corruption mechanisms at the State level too. All those committed to fighting corruption should mount struggles for creation of Lokayuktas in States now, said Dr. JP.

Dr. JP that the Lok Pal Bill does not incorporate provisions for service guarantee and imposition of penalty for failure to deliver services to ordinary citizens. The matter can be addressed by the Service Guarantee Bill which the Lok Satta has drafted at the instance of the Parliamentary Committee. The Bill should be enacted into law soon as part of the mission to combat corruption.

Dr. JP said the provisions in the Lokpal Bill relating to confiscation of properties of the corrupt are not strong enough and suggested that a Bill drafted by the Law Commission on the lines of the Smugglers and Foreign Exchange Manipulators Act (SAFEMA) be introduced in Parliament.

Dr. JP said that the BJP is right in objecting to transfer of CBI officials investigating Lokpal cases without Lokpal consent. The Government should concede the plea and make Lokpal’s concurrence mandatory for carrying out such transfers. The BJP, however, is wrong in opposing the provision that gives an opportunity to public servants to explain themselves before a full investigation is ordered. Otherwise, honest officials will be subject to unwarranted humiliation. In addition, the Lokpal will be overburdened with cases which might be dropped later for want of evidence.

Dr. JP appealed to all parties to join hands and enact the law. He recalled that the amended Lokpal Bill provides for the appointment of a high-powered panel to appoint the Lokpal as suggested by the Lok Satta Round Table 2011. The panel comprises the Prime Minister, Speaker, Leader of the Opposition, Chief Justice of India and an eminent person nominated by the four. The CBI Director is to be appointed by a panel comprising the Prime Minister, Leader of Opposition and Chief Justice. There is provision for Directorates of Inquiry and Prosecution.

Dr. JP said that since a number of salutary provisions have been incorporated in the amended Bill, it should be enacted into law without further delay. It is almost one year since the Union Government conceived the law, Dr. JP pointed out.

Dr. JP appealed to Anna Hazare to withdraw the fast provided this law is enacted, or a firm commitment in writing is made by the Government and Opposition. The Lok Satta is deputing a team of senior leaders led by Mr. Surendra Srivastav, national General Secretary, to call on Anna, express support, and explain Lok Satta’s stand.

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