Anna fights, why don't we?
THIS WAR AGAINST CORRUPTION MUST CONTINUE ALL LEVELS. THAT IS THE ONLY WAY WE CAN EXPECT TO HAVE A SMOOTH SYSTEM, WRITES R. S. PATHANIA
Should I call him J.P. Narayan of 1977, V.P. Singh of 1987 or Mangal Pandey of 1857. Anna Hazare, having already made his mark on the national scene, himself might have never imagined if his ‘fasting’ at Jantar Mantar shall overnight become a nation-wide phenomenon and rather a mass movement against corruption. Given the row of scams and scandals hitting the national horizon, may it be CWG imbroglio, 2 G scam, Adarsh scandal or CVC appointment, the antipathy and disgust against corruption had blown up into a vast balloon and Anna had nothing much to do but to prick it a little and the hullabaloo followed.
Lokpal is a brainwave owing its genesis to the path-breaking concept of Ombudsman – conceived in Sweden, born in Norway and beautifully brought up in UK. Ombudsman is an unconventional sort of officer to whom public can go with its complaints against the bureaucracy and political executive. It is also called as ‘bulwark of a sound democratic government against tyranny of officialdom’. Going by the existing provisions of law, corrupt officials could only be punished under requisite provisions of Indian Penal Code/Ranbir Penal Code or Prevention of Corruption Act. But what we need is a speedy justice which ensure that a corrupt official is brough to book.
The first demand for setting up of an institution on the pattern of Ombudsman was raised in 1960 by a turbulent parliamentarian, Sh. K. M. Munshi. Mr. M.C. Setalvad fired the second salvo in this regard in the Lawyer’s Conference of early sixties. And the sweet result was the introduction of Lokpal and Lokayukta Bill, 1968. However, the Bill could not go through due to untimely exit of Morarji Desai government. In 1985, another Lokpal Bill was introduced in Parliament but it evoked violent protests from opposition benches as it sought to restrict the purview of Lokpal to the offences punishable under I.P.C. During the tenure of V.P. Singh, the Bill was again introduced with great fanfare – it sought to bring all the offices including that of P.M. within its ambit. But once again the irresponsible attitude of parliamentarians was there to play the spoilsport. The tenure of Deve Gowda was also marked by a lively attempt to enact the path-breaking law, nevertheless, the supporters of the Bill were again made to eat the humble pie. Notwithstanding the conquered fate of Lokpal at the Centre, eighteen of the states have taken up the bold lead to establish Ombudsman-like institutions - ‘Lokayuktas’. And the tell-tale of Lokayukta in Karnataka with Justice Santosh Hegde as its chairman is really inspiring.
And now comes the Lokpal Bill sought to be enforced by the UPA – not only Anna, the Sonia-led National Advisory Council has also expressed serious reservations about the draft law. It envisages keeping the office of P.M. outside its ambit, adjudicating of complaints forwarded to it only by Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha and also proposing minor punishments against charges of misconduct and corruption. Whereas the Jan Lokpal Bill proposed by Anna Hazare, a ‘Sybil’ who loves to tear all leaves of prophecy, wants to empower the ‘aam aadmi’ to lodge complaints against the anonymous bureaucracy and the political executive including the PM as well. It also seeks to bring the judiciary within the purview of Lokpal and merging of all anti-corruption agencies including CVC, departmental vigilance and CBI’s vigilance teams with that of Lokpal.
Going by the legal contours and reasoning in Anna’s Jan Lokpal Bill, it palpably looks to be a better piece of draft legislation. And now that Manmohan-led government has also yielded to Anna’s demand of a Joint Action Committee and 50 % civilian presence in the committee, I propose that judiciary should be kept away from the purview of Lokpal. Let complaints of misconduct, misgivings and corruption against judges be adjudicated by National Judicial Commission. Let us pray if in this autumn of scams and scandals followed by Anna-fever, the National Judicial Commission also breathes to life. Or if the UPA government wants to wait for another Anna to sit on Jantar Mantar. Secondly, the appointment of Lokpal should be through a fool-proof, comprehensive mechanism with eminent people from Civil Society besides politicians and bureaucrats in the selection committee. Its removal should only be through the process of ‘impeachment’ and a safe tenure and should be afforded to it. And thirdly, Anna’s gospel of merging all anti-corruption watchdogs with Lokpal seems a bit fanciful and misplaced.
And in this troubled vale of J&K, the headless State Accountability Commission is lying in a state of limbo since 2008 with 241 complaints against bureaucratic bigwigs and politicos hanging fire. It is now almost a year back that the State was directed to appoint a Chairman and the accompanying members without further delay. But that couldn't happen. If the State Accountability Commission is operationalised, ‘right to information’ is further rationalized and streamlined and good governance, work culture and zero tolerance to human rights cease to remain as hollow slogans, the real freedom stands achieved.
Let’s hope and pray, the jinx breaks at the earliest. As the maxim goes, ‘the churning is always for the nectar to rise.’
(Author practices law in the J & K High Court and can be reached at email@example.com)
Lastupdate on : Wed, 13 Apr 2011 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Wed, 13 Apr 2011 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Thu, 14 Apr 2011 00:00:00 IST
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