Is The Lokpal Bill 2013 Effective?

Is the Lokpal Bill 2013 Effective_1Isn’t this topic of the year?

This Bill is nothing but an anti-corruption law in India which “seeks to provide for the establishment of the institution of Lokpal, which will inquire into allegations of corruption against certain public functionaries and for matters connecting them”.Well, for those of you who don’t know, The Lokpal and Lokayuktas Bill 2013 has been passed after 46 years and 8 failed attempts of trying to pass it since 1968. It got the President’s approval on 1st Jan 2014 after being approved by Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha on 17 and 18 December respectively. Anna Hazare must have heaved a sigh of relief… No more fasting for a while!

Enough of History… It is, no doubt, the most important topic this year. So let me begin by giving you the salient features of this literally historic Bill (46 years is a looong time…). Like I always say, please read these points very carefully. You can, then, make your own points, either for or against:

Who are Lokpal and Lokayukta?
As per the Act, a Lokpal will be at the centre level and Lokayuktas will be at the states levels. A Lokpal consist of a Chairperson and a maximum of eight members, of which 50 percent should be of judicial members. The Act provides that 50 percent of the total members of the Lokpal should be from SC/ST/OBCs, minorities and women.

Selection of Lokpal:
The Chairperson and members of the Lokpal will be selected through a selection committee, which include the Prime Minister of India, Lok Sabha Speaker, Lok Sabha’s leader of opposition, the Chief Justice of India or the Judge of the Supreme Court nominated by the Chief Justice. Then the President of India will nominate the eminent Jurist on the basis of the recommendations of the first four members of the selection committee.

Who can be prosecuted?
Is the Lokpal Bill 2013 Effective_2The jurisdiction of the Lokpal will cover all the categories of the public servant. Judiciary excluded completely and MPs excluded in respect of their votes and speeches in Parliament.The Prime Minister has been brought under the purview of the Lokpal. Under its also comes any/all entities, which will receive the donations from a foreign source in excess of 10 lakh rupees in context of Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA).

Control over CBI:
The Act provide Lokpal the right to superintendence and direct any investigation agency including the CBI on the cases, which will be referred to them from the Lokpal itself. Lokpal’s approval will be required for the transfer’s of the officers of CBI, who are investigating the cases referred by the Lokpal.

Action to be taken:

  • The Act gives the provisions to attach and confiscate the property that has been acquired by corrupt means even in the case that the prosecution of the case remains pending.
  • Clear time lines for preliminary enquiry and trial has been laid in the Act. The deadline is of three months to CBI for completing a preliminary inquiry, six months for a detailed probe and settling the cases within a year. It also mentions setting-up of special courts towards the end of the trial.
  • It mentions that a mandate for setting up the Lokayukta institution through enactment of a law by the State Legislature within 365 days from the date on which the Act was commenced.

Although that is a lot to digest, it is pretty simple. So now debate on how effective this Bill is.

POINTS IN FAVOUR:

Curb Corruption: The Lokpal Bill does what it is primarily meant to do, very well. It will bring a check on corruption from the lowest to the highest political authority. Even the Prime Minister of India has been brought under the purview of the Lokpal. Is the Lokpal Bill 2013 Effective_3

Fear of the Law: It will strengthen the power of the judiciary in India by inducing a fear for the law in the minds of all public servants. There will be special courts and advocates to handle the cases, so that they get resolved fast. Even if the prosecution of the case is pending, all corrupt property will be confiscated. Considering the money involved is in thousands of crores according to the recent Scams, Lokpal Bill makes sure the taxpayers money doesn’t fall into corrupt hands, but is utilized in the nation’s development.

Address govt. influence over CBI: The Lokpal has been given direct superintendence over any investigation. Also, no transfer of CBI Officer on the case is allowed without Lokpal’s approval. There is also a provision of selection of Director of CBI in the Act. All these measures reduce govt. influence over CBI.

Selection of Lokpal: The strategic selection mechanism for the Lokpal and his Panel makes sure that the right persons are selected for this highly challenging and responsible position. This makes the Act full proof against corruption amongst its own drivers.

A stepping stone: The Lokpal law introduces a modicum of accountability in the government sector and can be seen as a stepping stone in re-establishing faith on the government procedures for the common man. In a maturing, post-reform economy like India, which is struggling to cope with problems of development and inequality, it is an idea whose time has come and things can only get better from here. Former Army Chief General V K Singh had said “If a person is naked, he should at least get undergarments, a three-piece suit can follow.”

POINTS AGAINST:

Protect the corrupt : The biggest flaw in the Bill is the Selection of the Lokpal and its members. Majority of those who will select Lokpal will be from the political class who will have a vested interest in a weak Lokpal. If the Lokpal is weak, there is no question of curbing corruption. It’s another way of protecting the corrupt, as per politician’s convenience.

Lokpal’s removal : According to the Bill, Only the government or 100 MPs can complain to SC if this are satisfied with the Lokpal’s performance. Why have a Lokpal to punish the political class if its removal is in the hands of the same political class. Rather, any citizen should be allowed to complain and seek any Lokpal member’s removal.

Suspicious Exclusions: The Bill excludes Judiciary. Can’t the judges in the courts be corrupt? They are also public servants and should be under the purview of this Bill. Also, any decision of Lokpal to initiate preliminary inquiry or investigation against the PM shall be taken only by the Full Bench with a “2/3rdmajority”. This 2/3rd majority is of the political class itself. Why will they opt to go against the PM?

No whistleblower provision: The “Whistleblower” is defined as Is the Lokpal Bill 2013 Effective_4any person who faces threat of physical harm or professional harm like illegitimate transfers, denial of promotions, denial of appropriate perks, departmental proceedings, discrimination or is actually subjected to harm for making a complaint to Lokpal under this Act or for filing an application under RTI. If they are not protected, there will be no complaints in fear of such consequences.

Appointment of Lokayuktas: Lokayukta should have been created in the states along the same lines as the one at the Centre. However, this Bill puts this responsibility on the States. States will have absolute freedom in determining the nature and type of the institution of Lokayukta. How is that any different from the State Vigilance Committees, we have today. For example: The Chief Minister of Punjab is the Minister in charge of Vigilance Department of Punjab. Interestingly, the same vigilance department is also investigating charges of corruption against himself and his family and is prosecuting them. Can we expect such department to do any honest investigations or prosecution?

Punishment for false or frivolous complaints: Clause 46 of the Bill provides for a punishment with imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year and with a fine which may extend to Rs. 1 lakh in case a complaint is found to be false and frivolous or vexatious. Isn’t this a way to instill a fear in the mind of the complainant?

CONCLUSION :

There are several deficiencies in our anti-corruption systems because of which despite overwhelming evidence against the corrupt, no honest investigation and prosecution takes place and the corrupt are hardly punished. Our anti-corruption agencies have basic structural deficiencies because of which they are incapable of doing any honest investigations. So with this regards as well as with the increase in the levels of corruption in the political class, such a Bill is welcome and comes as a relief to Indians.However, there are some unaccounted areas in the Bill, without which the whole intention of rooting out corruption from public offices might just seem to be an eyewash. The purpose of the legislation and struggle that led up to it would be defeated if the real motivation behind the new thrust were to be the 2014 general election and the propaganda mileage associated with it.

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24 thoughts on “Is The Lokpal Bill 2013 Effective?

  1. Good one..
    First time I actually bothered to read through the entire article for the Lokpal Bill.
    It does seem a good new beginning unless it ends up being corrupt too!

  2. Every thing is fine but there is no protection given to whistleblowers who reveal the corrupt practices of their officials.There is every chance that officials holding key positions might well go to the extent of blackmailing them to take back the claims the've made against them .I think if this issue is addressed ,the bill will serve the actual purpose for which it was approved by the president of India.

    1. You are so correct. This is clearly being faced by some of the RTI activists, who try to bust out on the politicians but rather end up getting harassed or even worse, some of them mysteriously disappear. LokPal Bill, the current one, seems to be going the same way.

  3. I think the bottlenecks in the Bill are less than the benefits that it will provide. Just like you have mentioned in the "Stepping stone" point.
    Yet the points of the appointments of the Lokpal and Lokayuktas does ring some bells!

    1. The stepping stone point , personally, is the big one , in favour of the bill as that's what the bill actually is. We cannot anticipate a lot unless the bill actually comes into force. But we can hope for the better.

  4. It is a welcome sight for the Indians who always crib about corruption but do nothing to curb corruption.On the whole we inadvertently encourage corruption by our actions .Unless we determine ourselves not to involve ourselves in corrupt practises this Lokpal Bill will not be 100% effective.Although this bill will deter many who freely indulge themselves to achieve their own selfish interests ,yet the bill will only be effective if certain loopholes in the bill are weeded out completely.For eg-No whistle blower provision means many people would not be brave enough to report any irregularities even if they sense any wrongdoing.The fear of being annihilated by the stronger class may deter many to report any fraud.Secondly the selection of Lokpal should be free from any reservations.The members of the Lokpal should be formed by eminent jurists and intellects rather than 50% reserved quota.Still I feel this Bill will usher in right practices and will instill a fear in many who want to indulge themselves in corrupt practices.

    1. A very good point you have made is the Mango people's contribution towards corruption. Bribing has become a way of life for us Indians and the public servants cannot be blamed entirely for that. Its the people's inability to fight for their rights and to follow their duties, as laid by the Constitution, that is equally responsible for the so called Corruption Menace in our society.
      Thanks for your valuable take.

  5. Private firms are not covered under this Act. Hope this act will instill fear at all the levels of public servicing and we will soon see a corrupt free India. This is a first step towards a greater goal, and states should welcome that and should help in forming a strong Lokayuktas. Severe action should be taken against Lokpal/Lokayuktas if the time frame to solve the cases is not stringently followed as 'Justice delayed is Justice denied'.

    1. Let us be optimistic as this is but an optimistic step, a start. There is no doubt that there are certain loopholes in the Bill and let us hope that with time, the Bill is amended. If not private firms, at least private-public joint firms should be under its purview.

  6. Under its also comes any/all entities, which will receive the donations from a foreign source in excess of 10 lakh rupees in context of Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA)-Does that mean any institution receiving less that that is less likely to be corrupt?

  7. bill is made in such a way that politician could get an escape if found corrupt.all politician can favour a strong bill if they eliminate their fear of being caught. what is the moto of politician to exclude mps. it would be better if citizen has got some direct role in lokpal and it members appointment.whatever be the bill has come ,i welcome it and hope for changes for strong bill if required

    1. I agree. Even if a citizen cannot vote a lokpal, he should at least have an option of filing a complaint that can dismiss the lokpal, but nothing of that sort is mentioned. Its turning out more to be a bill for the politician, by the politician.. But that doesn't mean it can't be effective. Much depends on how it is implemented. We will have to wait n watch.

  8. thank you so much.. its really nice.. also if you can tell us about FDI in the same way.. the way you have explained lokpal ..lokayuktas, action over CBI n all.. so same way if we get to know about FDI (apart from points in favor and points in against… a description about it) would be really nice

  9. Hi
    Nice article…your site has always helped me to improve my knowledge…

    Just one observation..according to the information given on Wikipedia, protection to whistle blower is not provided in Lokpal but it is provided in Jan Lokpal
    So my question is…whether Lokpal is passed now or Jan lokpal ??
    Kindly help

    1. Lokpal Bill has been passed now. Jan Lokpal is the one demanded by Anna and Kejriwal during their India Against Corruption campaign. Kejriwal says he will soon pass the Jan Lokpal Bill in his state, Delhi.

  10. Clearly, this bill is like a undergarments in the context of statement given by former Army Chief General VK Singh. But whats interesting is to watch when the crucial amendments will be made in the future, to the bill, to make it a three piece. The future of this bill should not end as other bills that end up as just the cover but bring no actual change.

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