The demand of Anna Hazare and his supporters is to draft a new Lokpal bill, place it before the Parliament and make it an act.
The government is mulling of forming a committee in order to draft the bill, and if this time too it does not take shape, then it would be the ninth time that this bill would be going into cold storage.
Legal experts say that the Lokpal bill in its current form is useless and makes no sense and successive governments, since the past 40 years, have shown no seriousness in giving the bill more teeth, leave alone placing it before Parliament.
Karnataka Lokayukta Justice Santosh Hegde says that the bill in its existing form is as good as non-existent. It speaks about having three Lokpals and confers them with a jurisdiction against members of Parliament, ministers and also the prime minister in cases of corruption.
Basically, all acts of corruption have to be tried under the Prevention of Corruption Act and ironically the Lokpals cannot act on their own even if they have a case on hand.
Since the Lokpals have not been given a dedicated police force, they will not be able to work on their own.
This would mean that they will have to refer the complaints to either the police or the Central Bureau of Investigation since these are the two agencies which have the power to deal with the Prevention of Corruption Act.
What is funnier about the existing Lokpal bill is that no complaint can be acted upon unless the Lok Sabha Speaker or the deputy chairman of the Rajya Sabha refers the complaint to the Lokpal.
Once the complaint is referred to the Lokpal, he cannot do much since he will have to go back to the police or the CBI to investigate the matter.
In such an event the presence of a Lokpal is unnecessary since the Speaker or the deputy chairman can well refer the complaint directly to either the CBI or the police.
Another drawback in the existing bill is that the Lokpal has not been given suo motu powers to act against the persons under its jurisdiction.
Justice Hegde further points out that the existing bill has kept the Lokpal out of the purview of central government employees. This is a major loop hole in the bill since no corruption by a minister can take place unless he has colluded with a central government employee.
Even if the Lokpal is aware that an act of corruption is committed with the help of a central government employee, he cannot even refer his name to the investigating agency.
Suggestions for a new bill:
The new Lokpal bill has to have more teeth and various provisions in the existing bill need to be changed if not done away with completely:
- The new bill should ensure that three Lokpals are appointed immediately after the bill becomes an act.
- The public should have the right to complaint directly to the Lokpal instead of waiting for the Speaker to refer a complaint.
- Apart from ministers and the prime minister, even central government employees should come under the purview of the Lokpals.
- The Lokpal, like the Karnataka Lokayukta, should have its own police force. This force should be directly under the control of the Lokpal.
- The Lokpal should be given suo motu powers to investigate cases of corruption and complaints should be entertained by the common man as well.
- The Lokpal bill should make a provision to have Lokayuktas in every state in the country which will coordinate with the Lokpal in cases that are connected between the state and the central government.
Do you have any other suggestions? Tell us!
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Rediff.com will publish the best suggestions in a separate article soon.