The headlines in the media, the constant talk in the market of how deep the corruption has sunk in our body politic and how nefarious role is played by the ill-gotten money contribution to all political parties is a specter which is haunting the public all the time. Why inspite of CBI investigation in 2G Scam under Supreme Court monitoring or by J.P.C. or P.A.C. probe can still not persuade the government to consider seriously to enact an effectively genuine Lokpal legislation to deal with this menace of corruption - if the draft of Lokpal Bill, 2010 is any indication it would appear that realization of grave urgency is still missing - with the government.
No one, of course, suggests that an evil like corruption in public life can be eliminated merely by legislation. The clean public life, the standards and character of political parties has to be built on grounds of moral conscience and public pressure. Of course the ultimate remedy to the various evils like corruption in public life can only be eliminated, as in the words of Mahatma Gandhi: "A small body of determined spirits fired by an unquenchable faith in their mission can alter the course of history."
We must, however, face reality. Such spirits are rare to find and we ordinary mortals must make an effort to find some mechanism which may hopefully be able to keep in check the demoralization and corruption in our public life. One such mechanism that almost all governments since 1996 have been promising but have done nothing about it is the institution of LokPal, an independent body to enquire into the lapses and complaints against legislators, members of Parliament, both at the Centre and the States.
That corruption in various segments of our public life is eating into the vitals of our nation is freely admitted. Global corruption perception Index of India is 87 th out of 178 countries, slipping from 84 th in 2009. The result is that while on one hand India has 100,000 billionaires 8.7 crore families (minimum of 40 crores) are living below poverty line.
The Central Government has, at last, proposed LokPal Bill, 2010, but it unfortunately fails even to be a cosmetic exercise to fight corruption. It is shamefully tooth less and meant just to give a false reassurance to the people that government is serious in its fight against corruption.
The LokPal is a 3-member body consisting of a Chairperson who is a former Chief Justice or judge of the Supreme Court and two members who are/ have been judges of Supreme Court or Chief Justices of High Courts. I feel restricting it to judges is too narrow. I feel outstanding social scientists or academicians should also be eligible and it should be a five member body.
The jurisdiction of LokPal under Section 10 apparently covers Prime Minister, Ministers, Members of Parliament. But the hypocrisy is exposed when at the same time it nullifies the same by providing that Lokpal shall not enquire into any allegations of corruption against any member of either House of Parliament unless the recommendation of Speaker or Chairman of Council of States, as the case may be, is received by it. One is amazed at the effrontery of such a provision, namely, that Lokpal consisting of the status of the highest judiciary is powerless to act on its own even when it prima facie finds a strong case for enquiry. Not only that but insultingly after the enquiry and even when Lokpal finds that any of the charges have been proved, against the members of Parliament, all he can do is to send a report of his finding to the Speaker and Chairman, of the Council of States, and they alone will determine what action to be taken - obviously it may include rejecting the report of Lokpal. Of course, the presiding officers have to place the report before both the Houses of Parliament. A formal courtesy is to be done by informing the Lokpal as to what action is taken or proposed to be taken which includes the rejection of findings of guilt by Lokpal. What sardonic joke is being played on the public? The government is treating the members of Parliament like sacred idols in a temple who can not be touched by Lokpal, but only by the Brahmanic priesthood of co-legislators who will decide finally. This reduces the authority of Lokpal to worse than lower magistrate whose order the highest in the land including the President has to comply with. The sheer effrontery of Law Ministry in proposing such an insulting provision is a direct negation of the institution of Lokpal, and makes it toothless. Rather what should have been done was to provide that the finding of guilt by Lokpal would be treated in the same manner, as Section 8 of Representation of the Peoples Act, 1951 as a disqualification from contesting the election for a period of 6 years. Further, the Lokpal should have been authorized to impose a penalty for recovery of any amount found to have been lost by the action of legislators or Ministers.
Not only this but Lokpal under Section 11 is forbidden to enquire into any memo of complaint if it is made after the expiry of 5 years from the date when the offence is alleged to have been committed. Has the government realized the absurdity of providing a limitation period in such complaints, which if they were to be tried under Prevention of Corruption Act, would have no limitation Bar, because there is no limitation for initiating proceedings under the criminal law where punishment provided is more than three years. What kind of skewed provision is this which instead of making legislators' liability more strict gives them immunity?
Also has the UPA Government considered that if the 5 year period were to be provided then by the same logic or equity, would they not be barred from holding an enquiry in 2SG scam of 2001-02 during B.J.P. Government (which by all standards should be held along with the enquiry into 2SG scam against Raja)? Are the people not entitled to demand an explanation as by what perverse logic this high sounding body of Lokpal headed by the Chief Justice of India is being reduced to the position of a domestic pet? I am certain that no Judge with even a modicum of self-respect will accept such a demeaning, low grade rate post - the inevitable result would be that Lokpal Bill will collapse - an event that legislators have always evidently desired. So good bye to cleaning the political dirt, notwithstanding the high sounding calls by all the governments. Regrettably, cynics may be right when they say "who cares" - if in the process some dedicated Gandhians fighting for integrity in public life fast unto death at this unforgivable lapse by the Government.