Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Is there nothing that is good in the government drafted Lokpal Bill?

Contrary to popular views, there are certain aspects of the government Lokpal Bill which have merit.

  • First of all there is the Lokpal Bill, for whatever it is worth.
  • Elected representatives, persons convicted of any charges, persons connected with political parties are not eligible to become members of the Lokpal. Thus the fear of "infiltration" and eventual "corruption" of the Lokpal by the political class or government employees against whom the offenses would be registered is eliminated.

  • At least 5 members of the Lokpal need to have prior judicial background and need to be or have been the Chief Justice of India or Supreme Court Judge or Chief Justice of a High Court. Persons of such eminence would be expected to deliver, rather than not.

  • The jurisdiction of the Lokpal covers all elected representatives, including Ministers and the Prime Minister, all classes of government officials and even officials belonging to non government bodies that are funded or controlled by the government or receive funding above a certain amount of foreign funding. Thus no one is spared, never mind the restrictions on the Prime Minister.

  • All complaints brought to the Lokpal are to be dealt within specific time limits. This means complaints have to be dealt with one way or the other in a time bound fashion. Even cases filed in the Special Courts have to complete the trial proceedings with a maximum of two years. So accept or reject the decisions, every activity from preliminary inquiry to trial has to be completed within a maximum of  2 years and 9 months.

  • Special courts and not normal courts will examine cases that are taken up for prosecution by the Lokpal. This means all cases filed by the Lokpal will not enter the black hole that is our judicial system.

  • No sanction is required by the Lokpal to initiate action on a complaint.

  • The Lokpal and its officials can examine any person it believes is connected with the wrong-doing or has information relevant to the wrong-doing. It does not need any prior sanction in order to do so.

  • The Lokpal can have its own Inquiry (not Investigative) Wing  and Prosecution Wing. To this extent, the Lokpal has some independent bodies under its direct supervision.

  • The Lokpal can move for provisional attachment of assets or any other artifacts or material that it believes may have been obtained as "proceeds of offense".

  • All Lokpal members have a maximum term of 5 years and cannot be appointed again.

  • Lokpal members can be removed or suspended by the President and consent of the Supreme Court.

  • Procedure to deal with false complaints, where the complainant may be fined upto INR 1 lac or imprisoned for a maximum of 1 year and also be asked to compensate the public servant.

So am I arguing that there are no flaws in the government Bill? Not at all. But surely there are some merits, and it is important they are recognized and appreciated.

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