Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Dr. JP's Anti-Corruption Bill includes Legislators among public servants

Lok Satta Party President Dr. Jayaprakash Narayan presented a draft Bill to amend the Prevention of Corruption (Andhra Pradesh) Act to the Speaker, Mr. N. Kiran Kumar Reddy and the Chief Minister and leader of the House, Dr. Y.S. Rajashekhar Reddy, in the Assembly today. He appealed to the government to introduce the Bill in the Legislature in the budget session.

The amendment Bill integrates recommendations, guidelines and suggestions of the 166th Law Commission Report, the 2nd Administrative Reforms Commission's 4th Report among others with a view to eradicating corruption at all levels.

In its statement of objects and reasons, the Bill says: "Prior interventions have been considered as mere posturing without any real intention to bring the corrupt to book, and have been inferred to be handy weapons for partisan, political use to harass opponents. Corruption is so deeply entrenched in the system that most people regard corruption as inevitable and any effort to fight it as futile. This cynicism is spreading so fast that it bodes ill for our democratic system itself.

"In fact, there is no reason to believe that we, as a people, are more prone to corruption than any other culture or society. Wherever competition and choice have been institutionalized, and technology and transparency introduced, corruption has been reduced. What we need is political will, systemic improvement and relentless and assured application of law."

If the Bill is adopted, MLAs and MLCs, elected members of panchayats, municipalities, and municipal corporations will be deemed as public servants and attract the provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act.

As per the Bill, an accused public servant has to prove his innocence in cases of trap or disproportional assets. It provides for attachment and seizure of property during investigation and forfeiture of property when he or she is found guilty.

The Bill provides for establishment of a special court in every district, appointment of chief judicial magistrates as special public prosecutors and autonomy to the Anti Corruption Bureau, and effective powers to the Lok Ayukta. Special courts can on their own take cognizance of corruption involving public servants.

In its preamble, the Bill quotes former UN General Secretary Kofi Annan who says: "Corruption hurts the poor disproportionately by diverting funds intended for development, undermining a government's ability to provide basic services, feeding inequality and injustice, and discouraging foreign investment and aid."

Addressing the media, Dr. JP congratulated the Chief Minister on his commitment to eradicate corruption. But he should walk the talk. If the Government did not introduce the Bill to amend the Prevention of Corruption Act, Dr. JP said, he would introduce it as a private member's Bill.

Dr. JP also underlined the need to integrate various authorities dealing with corruption and disciplinary proceedings. The Lok Satta would draft a separate Bill for that purpose. Lok Satta Party leaders K. Dharma Reddy, V. Vijayender Reddy and E. Chennayya took part in the media meet.

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