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Re: [Arkitect India] Fw: Grey Areas in Jan Lokpal Bill Version 2.3

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  • Abdul Khaliq
    Print Email to Friend| From Tehelka Magazine, Vol 8, Issue 39, Dated 01 Oct 2011 OPINION JAN LOKPAL The Proof of the Pudding Good intention can have chaotic
    Message 1 of 4 , Sep 29, 2011

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      From Tehelka Magazine, Vol 8, Issue 39, Dated 01 Oct 2011
      OPINION 
      JAN LOKPAL
      Abdul Khaliq

      The Proof of the Pudding

      Good intention can have chaotic consequences. Fast forward to 2020 and see where the Jan Lokpal Bill may really take us

      Anna Hazare

      Bitter pill Anna Hazare’s cure for corruption turned out to be far worse than the ailment

      Photo: Vijay Pandey


      THE YEAR is 2020, a tumultuous nine years after the Jan Lokpal Bill of Team Anna, by Team Anna and for Team Anna was ratified by Parliament. Touted as the panacea for the country’s ills, it was time for a review of its performance.

      To say that the setting up of the Lokpal was a Herculean task is the ultimate understatement. The start itself was inauspicious, with the formation of the 11-member Lokpal Board taking almost a year because of the politicking, backroom manoeuvring and skulduggery that marked the deliberations of the selection and search committees. This was hardly a surprise as these 11 nominated individuals would be the most powerful in the country, above the political executive and judiciary, and that too without any accountability.

      Then followed the monumental task of setting up anti-corruption units across India. On the basis of Team Anna’s yardstick of one vigilance officer for every 200 employees, the Lokpal required 30,000 officers and a host of inspectorial and administrative staff for monitoring 4 million Central government servants and 2 million employees of Central public sector undertakings. In addition, the Lokpal was required to set up anticorruption units for other Central public servants covered under Section 2(c) of the Prevention of Corruption Act 1988, such as judicial officers and staff, electoral officials, employees of registered co-operative societies receiving Central funds, employees of educational, social scientific, cultural institutions under the Central government, and Central university employees.

      The sheer enormity of the task can be gauged from the fact that the Indian Railways alone required 7,500 anti-corruption officers and at least six times that number of inspectorial and support staff for monitoring 1.5 million employees, against the then existing strength of 150 vigilance officers. Railway employees are spread over 60 divisions with an average manpower of 20,000 employees, 26 zonal headquarters and production units, 21 Railway Recruitment Boards and 21 Railway Claims Tribunals. Apart from Indian Railways, there are 44 other ministries/ departments of the Central government, of which some such as telecom, civilian defence and home affairs have more than six lakh employees each. Anti-corruption field units were to be set up to monitor all these employees. And there was the further requirement of setting up anti-corruption wings for monitoring the two million employees of the 250 PSUs.

      Each unit would have different wings to deal with separate subjects such as investigation, prosecution and grievances (Section 18(2)a). Adding to this set-up, the Lokpal Act provided for at least one appellate grievance officer in each of the 627 districts and many more in districts with a high concentration of public servants (Section 25(14)), which meant a minimum of 627 field units with varying manpower requirements.

      Click to zoom

      The average annual wage bill per Railway employee in 2011 was Rs 3.78 lakh. Keeping this as the yardstick, the annual wage bill of the Lokpal would be Rs 8324.80 crore at 2011 prices (does not include infrastructure cost of Lokpal or cost of inquiry officers, their staff, infrastructure, minimum facilities, etc).

      By the time the Lokpal field units had been set up, five years had elapsed, creating a backlog of 1 lakh complaints

      Selecting officers and staff for this behemoth was a veritable nightmare. As already spelt out in the Lokpal Bill, the anti-corruption branch of the CBI was transferred along with its employees, assets and liabilities to the Lokpal. After initial hesitation, the Lokpal decided to merge the CVC and vigilance units along with their incumbents to the Lokpal. This was the first irony. Despite all the brouhaha about an independent authority to monitor the suspect bureaucracy, the first recruits to the Lokpal were those much-maligned civil servants. But considering the overall staff requirements of the Lokpal, this induction was but a drop in the ocean.

      Armed with powers to appoint officers and staff (Sections 4(20) and 6(k)), the Lokpal formed selection committees to recruit investigating and appellate grievance officers from the open market on pay scales equivalent to that of Group A officers. However, this method had to be quickly abandoned as it engendered numerous complaints of favouritism, nepotism and motivated selections. Thereafter, the Lokpal had no option but to fall back on government agencies such as the UPSC for meeting the massive requirements. Scenting the whiff of the immense powers wielded by the Lokpal, the brightest and most ambitious young men and women applied for the Lokpal posts in preference even to the IAS and Income Tax. The venerable members of the Lokpal Board privately expressed anguish that the young hopefuls were driven by the lust for power rather than a desire to clean up a rotten system.

      The issue of the status of the new recruits posed a major problem. The Lokpal Board was of the view that they should not be treated as government servants. However, when it was pointed out that the Lokpal officials were being paid from the Consolidated Fund of India, and that the Lokpal had already absorbed the CBI and CVC officials into its fold, the Lokpal Board reluctantly agreed to treat all recruits as Central government servants with matching pay and allowances. The Lokpal bureaucracy in all its purple splendour had kicked in.

      The training of the Lokpal recruits became another contentious issue. Some were of the view that a separate training facility called the Institute of Truth and Integrity should be set up. However, in view of the massive budget overruns, it was decided that the training would be imparted at government institutes. The Lokpal Board insisted there should be one training capsule on ethics, and spiritual leaders such as Baba Ramdev and Sri Sri Ravi Shankar invited to deliver lectures.

      This Frankenstein’s monster made no dent in tackling graft but only slowed down an already static government

      No sooner had the Lokpal Board been set up, hundreds of complaints started pouring in. Despite the best efforts of the CVC and CBI officials working in the Lokpal, the arrears kept accumulating. As no complaint could be closed without the investigating officer recording reasons for such closure, (Section 10(4)), every complaint had to be first authenticated by contacting the complainant and then a preliminary inquiry done before decision could be taken either to close the complaint or pursue it further. By the time the full-fledged Lokpal field units had been set up, five years had already elapsed. A backlog of more than 1 lakh complaints of corruption were pending apart from hundreds of grievance complaints. With each passing day, the number grew as also the resentment against the Lokpal. The magic wand was turning out to be a monstrous liability.

      APART FROM the internal problems, the Lokpal Board had to contend with the gang wars that broke out between the Lokpal officials on the one side and government agencies on the other. The Lokpal officials exercised enormous powers including i) ensuring compliance of their orders by imposing penalties on persons failing to comply with orders (Section 6(p)); ii) requiring any public authority to render any specific help required by the Lokpal (Section 6(v)); iii) intercepting voice and data through telephone, Internet, etc; iv) imposing penalties of up to Rs 50,000 on the grievance redressal officers; v) treating repeated violation of the Citizens Charter as an act of corruption, for which the minimum penalty was six months’ rigorous imprisonment. Innumerable complaints were received by the different Complaints Authorities regarding Lokpal officials terrorising government servants with trumped-up charges in order to settle scores or pressure them into doing their illegitimate bidding. In retaliation, all kinds of criminal charges, some genuine and some fake, were heaped on Lokpal officials by government servants.

      Of the numerous complaints of corruption that kept piling up in the Lokpal offices, even those that were finalised ended in the law courts. According to the Lokpal Act, a Bench of judicial officers would, after inquiry, determine the quantum of penalty that “shall be binding on the appointing authority” (Section 22). Out of sheer fear of harassment by the Lokpal, more often than not, the appointing authority would endorse the recommendations of the Bench. However, the aggrieved officials invariably went on appeal to the high courts that granted them relief on the grounds that there was “no application of mind” by the appointing authority that had merely endorsed the recommendation of the Lokpal. According to the courts, Section 22 of the Lokpal Act was inimical to Article 311 of the Constitution.

      The grievance redressal system spread across all 627 districts was another costly misadventure. While each public authority dutifully enumerated its commitments to the Citizens Charter, and the time-frame for fulfilling the commitments, the actual targets fixed were deliberately scaled down so that the grievance redressal officer, who was invariably the head of the public authority, escaped the threatened penalties as also possible departmental disciplinary action. In fact, according to the Act, repeated violation of the Citizens Charter was to be treated as an act of corruption (Section 2(e)) for which the minimum punishment was six months’ rigorous imprisonment.

      Grievance redressal officers who were punished by the Lokpal approached the courts in appeal inter alia protesting that they could not be held solely responsible for every failure in the organisation. Their appeals were upheld and one judgment even asked the rhetorical question whether the 11-member Lokpal Board was willing to accept responsibility for the myriad failures of the officials under their command. The general consensus was that the grievance redressal machinery served no purpose except to demoralise public servants.

      The Lokpal produced other lethal side-effects. With the disciplinary powers largely usurped by the Lokpal, the management in various public authorities no longer felt it was their duty to ensure the all-round health of the organisation. The mantra was “play safe”, as a consequence of which major decisions with financial implications remained pending and tenders were not finalised for months on end and then discharged. The end result of this all-pervasive apathy was a precipitate fall in industrial and agricultural production and spiralling inflation as corporates looked to other countries for investment. This apart, the law and order situation became unmanageable as various interest groups, adopting Team Anna’s strategy, used mobs and street protests to press their demands.

      THE LOKPAL’S only success was employment generation through creation of a parallel oligarchy that outstripped every government department in size and power. While emasculating government institutions and arrogating all punitive powers of governance, this Frankenstein’s monster made no dent in tackling graft but only slowed down an already lumbering government. The Lokpal’s recurring cost to the exchequer was more than Rs 10,000 crore annually, apart from the massive damage that it engendered in the form of organisational atrophy and administrative paralysis.

      Overwhelmed by the problems, the Lokpal Board revisited the original recommendation of the Administrative Reforms Commission, 1966, which had limited the role of the Lokpal to monitoring the PM, ministers, parliamentarians and secretaries to the Government of India. It is rumoured that the board has endorsed this recommendation for immediate implementation on the grounds that the monstrously large Lokpal was afflicted with the very ills of the agencies it monitored. The board’s rationale for seeking a revised mandate was that it is the political executive and top bureaucrats who set the tone for any organisation as they are responsible for all major decisions. It was, therefore, appropriate that the Lokpal concentrates on the key players in government instead of dissipating energies across an uncontrollable spectrum.

      Abdul Khaliq is General Secretary, Lok Janshakti Party.
      akhaliq2007@...



      Sent from my iPad

      On Sep 24, 2011, at 7:01 AM, Sankara Narayanan <psn.1946@...> wrote:

       

      My observations:


      1. Root cause of corruption is the concentration of political and economic powers in a few hands. There is no suggestion to decentralise these powers to the maximum extent possible to PRIs.

      Decentralisation of economic power - not statism - is as essential as decentralisation of political power. 

      2. After LPG, corporates influence and control the functioning of the state, legislature and judiciary. PM and cabinet ministers are selected by them. They are media. They decide the food we take, the dress, medicine, education, the war, peace etc etc. Almost all our functions from dawn to dusk and even when we are asleep are controlled by these corporations. Fair and Lovely is available now in hamlets also.

      Decision making is hijacked by Mumbai, Brussels, Washington and New York. Earlier our fate was decided in state capitals, Delhi and Mumbai. Even this is now outsourced.

      State (executive, legislature and judiciary) is downsized to leave lalas decide what people have to do or not to do. Corporate is more than a govt now.

      Not a word on controlling the corporate monster.

      3. NGOs, religious institutions and media are untouched.

      4. Privatisation of education, health etc and the present PPP are sources of big corruption.

      5. Electoral reforms?

      6. These corruption management bodies are suggested to be dominated by judges and bureaucrats. Why restrict to only these discredited elements? For instance, the judicial watch dog forum in UK was headed by a school teacher of Indian origin. She has no judicial background. 

      We should rather attack the cause not the effects.
      Prevention is better than cure.

      Sankara Narayanan 

      On Thu, Sep 15, 2011 at 11:35 AM, Dilip Kumar <dk.dilipkumar@...> wrote:
       

      Dear Chitta Behera Jee,

      I am delighted to read your mail that is so positive and constructive. In fact this should be the spirit among those who volunteer to save the nation against rampant corruption. I see some individuals and organizations do not see the merit in the Jan Lokpal Bill and go on criticizing it without suggesting any measure. Some of them even brand the move against corruption as fascist. It is mainly because either they are beneficiaries of the system or they want to impose their own point of view without going into details of the provisions and its spirit. There may be a ulterior motive of derailing this massive and mass upsurge against corruption.

      I am not an associate of this movement but I consider myself as a responsible citizen of the country and will continue supporting the move through my limited association of honest and socially sensitive people around me.

      Regards

      Dilip

      Sent from BlackBerry® on Airtel

      Dilip Kumar
      Rural Livelihood / Small-scale Aquaculture and Fisheries Development Adviser
      C-9 / 9698, Vasant Kunj, New Delhi-110070, India
      Tel / Fax- + (91) 11-26899185;
      Mob: +(91) 9560455702
      E mail- dk.dilipkumar@...


      From: Chitta Behera <chittabehera1@...>
      Date: Thu, 15 Sep 2011 01:21:57 +0530 (IST)
      Subject: [Arkitect India] Fw: Grey Areas in Jan Lokpal Bill Version 2.3 [1 Attachment]

       



      ----- Forwarded Message ----
      From: kshirod rout <kshirodroutadv@...>
      To: info@...; annahazare1@...; bvjralegan@...; bvjlokpal@...; indiaagainstcorruption.2010@...; prashantbhush@...; kiranbedioffice@...; parivartan@...; agnivesh70@...
      Cc:  bibhutripathy@...; ashoknanda6@...; bibhutripathy@...; subha_bikash@...; chittabehera1@...; pradippradhan63@...; basundhara@...; projectswarajya@...; binita.jaiswal@...; saiprasan2@...
      Sent: Wed, 14 September, 2011 11:55:10 PM
      Subject: Grey Areas in Jan Lokpal Bill Version 2.3

      To,

      Mr.Anna Hazare,

      Ralegan Siddhi,

      Tal -Parner, Ahmednagar, Maharashtra, India.   

      Ph- 91-02488-240401, 91- 02488 - 240581,

      info@..., annahazare1@..., bvjralegan@...bvjlokpal@...


      SUB: Proceedings and Recommendations of Seminar on Jan Lokpal Bill V 2.3 held at Cuttack on 7.09.2011 under the aegis of All Orissa Progressive Lawyers Association  


      Respected Annaji,

      First of all, we express our heart-felt solidarity to the great country wide campaign you have been leading over months now with a view to ensuring of enactment of a strong and sound Jan Lokpal Bill through Parliament of India. We firmly believe that such an enactment like the Right to Information Act 2005 shall be a great step forward in the direction of building a corruption free India.

      You may kindly recollect that earlier in the month of April 2011 we had organized two Seminars in quick succession at Cuttack, one on 16.04.2011 and the next one on 24.04.2011 where the Versions 2.1 and 2.2 were respectively discussed in detail and the recommendations thereof were mailed to you soon thereafter for your kind perusal and necessary action. Though we didn’t receive any reply from you or any spokesperson from Team Anna to the suggestions we had then put forth, it was a pleasant surprise to all of us that the current version of Jan Lokpal Bill i.e. V 2.3 seemed to be a much better draft than its predecessors, having incorporated quite some concerns and changes that we had pleaded for in course of our deliberations.   


      For your kind information, with a view to making our humble contribution to the making of a strong and sound Jan Lokpal Bill for the country, a Seminar, the third one in the series, was orgainsed at Cuttack on 7th September 2011 to understand in depth and reflect on the latest Version 2.3 of the Bill. The speakers, mostly comprising lawyers and social activists, identified not only its points of strength but also grey areas, which need to be addressed and made good at the earliest by Team Anna so as to help the Parliament enact a strong and sound Lokpal law at the end of the day.


      Last but not the least, while expressing again our solidarity to your campaign for Jan Lokpal Bill, we look forward to a reply from your end acknowledging the receipt of this letter,

      With regards,

      Kshirod Kumar Rout, Dt 14.09.2011

      President, Progressive Lawyers Association 

      D/917, Sector-6, CDA, Cuttack-14, Orissa 

      Email: kshirodroutadv@..., Mobile: 09937169865

      Cc: indiaagainstcorruption.2010@..., prashantbhush@..., kiranbedioffice@..., parivartan@..., agnivesh70@...


      Seminar on Legal Aspects of Jan Lokpal Bill 2011 (Version 2.3)

      held at Project Swarajya, Bakharabad, Cuttack at 6 to 8 PM on 7.09.2011 under the   aegis of All Orissa Progressive Lawyers Association  

       

      Mr. Kshirod Rout Advocate, President of the Association and Chairman of the Seminar-

      Being the President of the All Orissa Progressive Lawyers Association, the orgainisation that convened the Seminar Mr.Rout presided over the occasion. At around 6 PM he declared the proceedings of the Seminar open. In his opening remarks he briefly mentioned about the background to and significance of the present Seminar which was being held to discuss Version 2.3 of Jan Lokpal Bill. He further observed that this Seminar happened to be the third one in the series, while the preceding two were held on Version 2.1 on 18th April 2011 (visit for proceedings http://www.box.net/shared/sqjoeponle) and on Version 2.2 on 26th April 2011 (Visit for proceedings http://www.box.net/shared/65lfn0sbcmqq6zgkmqp2) respectively. It is a good news to share with you that thanks to the recommendations of the above two Seminars which were sent to Sri Anna Hazare, his Team Members and the members of Joint Drafting Panel, the current version (2.3) of the Draft Bill is a much improved one, and articulates the very critical thrusts and priorities which were missing from its earlier versions. This is not to say that the present Version is completely error free and a model draft law in a complete sense. As a matter of fact, the present version is basically a workable draft law, which can be fine-tuned into a model instrument, with the incorporation of necessary inputs from various watchful quarters, whereas the earlier versions were so erratically drafted that those only deserved to be discarded outright and replaced by improved versions at the earliest. The present Seminar has been called precisely to scan minutely the current 2.3 Version of Jan Lokpal Bill so as to identify its loopholes if any and suggest to Anna Team to plug them with intimation to Parliamentary Standing Committee. With these introductory words President Mr. Rout then called upon Mr.Bibhu Prasad Tripathy Advocate and General Secretary of the Association to briefly speak on the theme of the Seminar.

       

      Mr. Bibhu Prasad Tripathy, Advocate & Gen Secy. of Association-

      After welcoming all the participants into the Seminar, Mr.Tripathy opened his stalk with the observation that Jan Lokpal Bill, as it has been projected so far by Team Anna, is a unique kind of law for our country in the sense that it seeks to set up an anti-corruption regulatory body for all the 3 wings of the State covering both Centre and States. Besides it is envisaged to combine in a single sweep the powers of policing, investigation, prosecution and adjudication against all kinds of corruption. It is precisely for this reason that some persons have, on grounds of practicability, expressed their skepticism about the very wisdom of putting such a gargantuan regulatory institution in place by way of legislation.     

       

      That having been said, it is also an imperative that all the public servants of the State should be held accountable for all their acts of omission and commissions to the citizens who pay for their salaries and allowances and are therefore their ultimate masters in a democracy. Jan Lokpal Bill is nothing but a legislative endeavor to codify and institutionalize this principle of accountability in the entire statecraft of our polity, and its enactment shall provide for punishment to every public servant whosoever by his/her act of corruption causes loss to the state exchequer or by an act of delay or negligence deprives a citizen of his/her rightful and legitimate dues or entitlement. 

       

      It is worth noting that the Jan Lokpal Bill in its present version also seeks to cover within its purview the acts of corruption or misfeasance taking place in the judiciary. But as is well known by now, Anna Hajare himself agreed to give up his insistence on inclusion of judiciary in the purview of Jan Lokpal Bill before he ended his fast at Ramlila Ground, on the ground that there was already pending a draft bill called Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill 2010 in the Parliament and the said bill if enacted into law would serve the purpose of Jan Lokpal Bill in relation to judiciary, that is, by holding the judges and judicial officers accountable before the common citizen in respect of their acts of corruption and negligence.

       

      As regards the background to the Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill 2010, it may be stated that it had its roots in the Judges (Enquiry) Act 1968, which lays down a procedure for enquiry into the charges of proved misbehavior or incapacity of the Judges of the High Courts and the Supreme Court, prior to their removal by way of impeachment by the Parliament. But this Act doesn’t provide for any such enquiry, basing upon any complaint from the citizens. Keeping in view the need for a statutory mechanism to address the complaints of the public in this regard, the Full Court meeting of Supreme Court of India on 7 May, 1997 had adopted “the Restatement of Values of Judicial Life” which laid down certain judicial standards to be followed by the Judges of Supreme Court and High Courts. The “restatement” was ratified and adopted by Indian Judiciary in the Chief Justices’ Conference 1999. However, it was soon realized that this Restatement lacked in legal authority and could not therefore be enforced. Under these circumstances, it was felt that a full-fledged statute be enacted to enforce the judicial standards and accountability in response to the complaints by the public and thereby bring transparency and increase public confidence in the judiciary. The present Judicial Standards and Accountability bill 2010 aims at fulfilling that critical need of the nation. Under the circumstances, the concurrence of Anna Hazare to keep the judiciary from out of the ambit of Lokpal in view of the Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill 2010 pending in Parliament seems to be a rightful decision.

       

      Lastly, as is well known, there are as of now 4 drafts on Lokpal Bill under consideration of Parliamentary Standing Committee, such as Lokpal Bill 2011 proposed by the Government, Jan Lokpal Bill 2011 proposed by Anna and critical and comparative notes on the need for a model Lokpal Bill submitted by Mrs.Aruna Roy and Mr.Jayaprakash Narain from Loksatta of Andhra Pradesh. Hopefully, the model Lokpal Bill shall emerge in due course by way of appropriating valued inputs from all these sources. It is therefore expected that the learned members of this house while debating the pros and cons of Anna Hazare’s Jan Lokpal Bill 2011 shouldn’t miss out the relevant elements from other Bills, if any, in course of their deliberations.

       

      Mr. Chitta Ranjan Behera, Advocate and Social Activist-

      While hailing the organizers of this Seminar for holding it at an appropriate moment, Mr.Behera first of all observed that out of the four documents referred to by the previous speaker Mr.Tripathy, only two documents, namely those proposed by the Government (http://164.100.24.219/BillsTexts/LSBillTexts/asintroduced/Lokpal%20%2039%20of%202011%20English.pdf) and Anna (http://www.box.net/shared/tyqqc9d0rl8xgglqxpmj) are in the shape of the Bills in a formal sense of the term, while Mrs.Aruna Roy’s proposal is in fact a bunch of notes (http://ibnlive.in.com/news/lokpal-bill-aruna-roy-and-ncpris-suggestions/172475-53.html) and Mr.Jaiprakash Narain’s note (http://www.loksatta.org/cms/documents/lokpal/LokpalBill_LSandFDRposition.pdf ) nothing more than a sketchy comparative table on what should find place in a model Lokpal law. Then coming to the Government Bill, it suffers from certain congenital deficiencies, on account of which it is not worth discussing in forums of this nature. For instance, its jurisdiction is limited to the public authorities working under Centre only, whereas most of corruption takes place at the level of States (vide Section 1-3). Secondly, only Group-A Officers are kept under its purview, whereas a large incidence of corruption is indulged in by the lower bureaucracy which is directly linked to the common people (vide Section 17-1d). Moreover, there are a lot of exceptions and provisos that bar the investigation and prosecution from being carried out against the alleged acts of corruption by the public servants in high places, as a result of which the nation can never come to know through the agency of Lokpal the real facts about high profile stories of corruption by VVIPs. For instance, no allegation of corruption against a serving Prime Minister can ever be enquired into by Lokpal (Section 17-1a).

       

      Thus, alternatively we are left with only one draft law to reckon with i.e. Jan Lokpal Bill V 2.3, which is basically a sound dispensation for its comprehensive scope, strong orientation against the corrupt and also for the provision of checks and balances as and where required. Look at its Section 17 (Investigation and Prosecution against High Functionaries), which says that a 7-member Bench of Lokpal can allow investigation or prosecution to be held against any such high-profile functionary as Prime Minister or any other Minister, any Judge of Supreme Court or High Court or any Member of Parliament. Besides, the JL Bill basically adopts the comprehensive definition of ‘public servant’ as given under Section 2-c of Prevention of Corruption Act 1988, which covers every functionary of State from top to bottom working in any of the wings executive, legislative or judiciary.

       

      Of course, a question has been raised about the wisdom of centralizing so many powers in a single body called Lokpal, and as the proverb goes, power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. But this apprehension is an unfounded one in view of the fact that if Lokpal goes astray or wicked, the Chairman or a Member of Lokpal can be suspended or removed by the Supreme Court after an allegation of corruption, incapacity or misbehavior lodged by any person against any of them is proved genuine (vide Section 11). The apprehension about the unwieldy nature of Lokpal arising out of its allegedly gargantuan size is equally unfounded. We know that India has been managing a massive, country wide network of post offices, which is running more or less efficiently and free from corruption for more than a century now. What is the reason? It is mainly because of the stringent provisions of penalty contained in Indian Post Offices Act 1898 against the officers and employees of post offices who may be violating the law in any manner including indulgence in corruption. There are of course some other public authorities of   mammoth size, such as Railways and BSNL, spread out from one end to the other of the country which may not be as corruption-free as Postal Network, but which have been existing and growing, and don’t show any sign of crumbling simply due to hugeness in size.        

       

      As a matter of fact, what Jan Lokpal Bill asks for is not something radically different from the existing anti-corruption regime. It simply asks for merger of investigative wing of CBI with Lokpal. As every one of us could see, a small group of CBI personnel could arrest in no time the mining mafia Reddy Brothers from Bellary in Karnataka taking the help of Andhra police. It shows that CBI as an investigative and prosecuting agency together with the Prevention of Corruption Act 1988 has enough legal and administrative powers to arrest and imprison any person whosoever he/she may be. The only limitation and that is also the biggest limitation, with the PC Act or for that matter with CBI is the Section 19 of this Act which requires previous sanction of the appropriate authority prior to taking any deterrent action against a corrupt public servant. Due to this limitation the CBI has so far been put into use by the ruling elite against only those corrupt politicians or officers whom they wanted to catch and punish out of their partisan motives and leave untouched those corrupt public servants whom they wanted to save for a similar set of partisan motives. It is therefore proposed to merge the investigative wing of CBI into Lokpal (Section 32) and to delete the provisions relating to the previous sanction in the Section 19 of the PoC Act (Section 29-1).

       

      At this stage, Mr.Jugal Nayak, a leader from BJD Party asked Mr.Behera, if the PoC Act is so powerful but deficient only in one respect i.e. lack of autonomy, why should we not amend it suitably to plug this deficit, rather than go for legislating an altogether new Act called Jan Lokpal Bill? Mr.Behera replied that the Jan Lokpal Bill is not only concerned with checking corruption in the sense of bribery being practiced in public authorities, but also redressal of public grievances arising from denial of rights and entitlements, and protection of whistle-blowers from victimization by vested interests within and outside public authorities (vide Preamble to Jan Lokpal Bill 2011). The Prevention of Corruption Act 1988 or any other existing law of the land has till yet provided for no such provisions other than prevention of corruption. That is why a new law in the shape of Jan Lokpal Bill has been contemplated with a composite 3 pronged mandate, prevention of corruption, redressal of public grievances and protection of whistle blowers.

       

      Mr. Behera further mentioned that the Vigilance Directorate of State Government, which now works as a tool of the ruling power of the State, can turn into a veritable investigative and prosecuting agency against all cases of corruption taking place in the State, once it merges into the would-be Lokayukta of the State, envisaged to be constituted as a part of the Jan Lokpal structure.

       

      Some persons have opined against the inclusion of lower bureaucracy within the purview of Jan lokpal. But as we know, lower bureaucracy is the cutting edge of the administration, which is responsible for delivery of all sorts of entitlements to the common man, be it the issue of a residential certificate by Tahsil Office, BPL Card from Block Office, copy of FIR from Police Station, water connection from a Municipal office  or a Driving license from the office of RTO. Here at this level only, the common people feel the pinch of corruption and misfeasance, and it is for this reason that they rallied round Anna Hazare’s campaign for Jan Lokpal Bill. There is an exclusive chapter on Grievance Redressal System in Jan Lokpal Bill (Section 25), which requires every public authority to appoint the senior-most officer from within its ranks as the PGRO (Public Grievance Redressal Officer), who is supposed to redress within 30 days the grievance of any person relating to violation of citizens’ charter in respect of any entitlement. If he fails to redress it, an appeal against him shall lie before the Appellate Grievance Officer to be appointed at district level by Lokpal. He has the power to levy a fine of Rs.500/- against a day’s delay upto a mximum of Rs.50,000/-. Besides, the performance of Appellate Grievance Officer shall be subject to a social audit to be held once in 6 months in the presence of a senior officer from Lokpal. It seems to be a good provision, provided the time-limit within which the Appellate Grievance Officer is to decide the appeal against PGRO is provided in the Bill.       

       

      Another outstanding feature of the Jan Lokpal Bill is its provisions for protection to whistle-blowers (Chapter-XI, Section 21). It needs to be mentioned here that a Bill named Public Interest Disclosure and Protection to Persons Making the Disclosures Bill, 2010, with the objective of providing protection to whistle blowers is still pending in Parliament with effect from 26th Aug 2010, but no public debate has taken place around it. Thus, Jan Lokpal Bill ought to maintain the provisions relating to protection of whistle-blowers until and unless the pending Bill is enacted into a full-fledged and fool-proof law after a thorough-going public debate is held around its provisions.

       

      Frankly speaking, the most critical concern relating to Jan Lokpal bill is Anna Hazare’s concurrence for omitting the judiciary from the purview of Jan Lokpal Bill on the ground that a draft bill namely Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill 2010 (

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