Competitive Exams: Current Affairs 2012: Lokpal Bill

The basic principles on which the bill was drafted were culled from the United Nations Convention against Corruption, which required all countries to put in place anti-corruption investigative agencies that would be independent of the executive government and would have the jurisdiction to investigate all public servants for corruption.

The Jan Lokpal Bill thus provided for the selection of a 11-member Lokpal by a broad-based selection committee (comprising the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition, two judges selected by all the judges of the Supreme Court, the Comptroller and Auditor General, the Chief Election Commissioner, the Central Vigilance Commissioner and the previous three chairpersons of the Lokpal), through a transparent process.

It sought to bring the anti-corruption wing of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) under the Lokpal's administrative control.

The Lokpal was to be given corruption investigative jurisdiction over all public servants (including Members of Parliament, judges and all sections of the bureaucracy), and those who may have abetted their acts of corruption (including corporations or nongovernmental organisations). The Lokpal could recommend the removal of those officials who were charge sheeted for corruption and order the freezing of any assets that seemed to be acquired by corrupt means.

The Bill sought to provide that corruption trials would be put on the fast track and the courts would determine the loss caused to the public exchequer by an act of corruption-which would be recovered from the corrupt public servants and their abettors. It provided for citizens'charters to be framed by all public authorities, which would provide for time-bound delivery of public services; failure to do so would be actionable at the hands of officers working under the Lokpal. The bill required States to have

Lokayuktas (covering State government officials) on the same lines as the Lokpal.

In order to ensure the integrity of the Lokpal institution, several layers of accountability were sought to be built into its working.

Its functioning was made totally transparent by means of a requirement to put every detail of its investigations on a public website after the completion of investigations. The CAG was required to do an annual financial and performance audit of the functioning of the entire Lokpal institution. Any citizen could make a complaint against any member of the Lokpal to the Supreme

Court, which had the power to order his or her suspension and even removal.

In addition, there were other important, anti-corruption provisions in the Jan Lokpal Bill. It required every public authority to give out contracts, leases and licences with total transparency and by public auction, unless such procedures were stated to be impossible to undertake. Public servants were barred from taking up jobs with those organisations or companies with which they had been dealing in their official capacity. This was meant to prevent an insidious form of corruption whereby public officials would take jobs instead of bribes from the organisations that they had been patronising in their official capacity.

After nine meetings, the government terminated its engagement with the civil society members of the joint drafting committee and went on to draft and table its own Bill in the monsoon session of Parliament. This Bill incorporated some of the provisions of the Jan Lokpal Bill but fell far short of what was required to even set up an independent and comprehensive anti-corruption investigative organisation. It left the selection of the Lokpal to a government-dominated committee. Though powers for the removal of Lokpal members were vested in the Supreme Court, complaints against the Lokpal could only be made by the government, which retained the power to suspend them.

The government's Bill removed most public servants from the jurisdiction of the Lokpal, including the Prime Minister, MPs (insofar as their corruption pertained to their actions in Parliament), judges, and Class 2, 3 and 4 officers. Instead, it brought lakhs of NGOs (even those which were not funded by the government) within its jurisdiction.

Though the Bill kept the CBI with the government, it allowed the Lokpal to have its own anti-corruption investigative body. It eliminated the need to get prior sanction for investigation from the government. It provided for the confiscation of the assets of corrupt public servants and the recovery of losses caused by their acts of corruption from them. But it created a terribly cumbersome procedure for investigation, by which a preliminary inquiry and hearing of the corrupt public servant were made compulsory before investigation could begin. This ended the possibility of making surprise raids and seizures on the premises of corrupt public servants or their abettors.

Courtesy: The Hindu