Janlokpal Bill : An overview and my unanswered questions

Corruption Aug 23, 2011

I have been watching closely on what was happening with the entire process of fasts, demonstrations over Lokpal and Janlokpal bill, I went through the bullet points of Janlokpal bill and began wondering, how does this bill help in curbing corruption or for that matter bringing back the black money back to India, I have seen so many people get behind this movement most of them not knowing what the content of the bill is and how does it improve their lives, I know that people are fed up of corruption and want it rooted out but there is a lot more to this than just a bill.
Let us first discuss what Janlokpal bill wants to achieve and my doubts and counter arguments on why this would not be enough, All this keeping in mind that that I am not against the bill.

These are salient features of the bill (taken from http://www.indiaagainstcorruption.org/salient.html)

  • An institution called LOKPAL at the centre and LOKAYUKTA in each state will be set up
  • Like Supreme Court and Election Commission, they will be completely independent of the governments. No minister or bureaucrat will be able to influence their investigations.
  • Cases against corrupt people will not linger on for years anymore: Investigations in any case will have to be completed in one year. Trial should be completed in next one year so that the corrupt politician, officer or judge is sent to jail within two years.
  • The loss that a corrupt person caused to the government will be recovered at the time of conviction.
  • How will it help a common citizen: If any work of any citizen is not done in prescribed time in any government office, Lokpal will impose financial penalty on guilty officers, which will be given as compensation to the complainant.
  • So, you could approach Lokpal if your ration card or passport or voter card is not being made or if police is not registering your case or any other work is not being done in prescribed time. Lokpal will have to get it done in a month’s time. You could also report any case of corruption to Lokpal like ration being siphoned off, poor quality roads been constructed or panchayat funds being siphoned off. Lokpal will have to complete its investigations in a year, trial will be over in next one year and the guilty will go to jail within two years.
  • But won’t the government appoint corrupt and weak people as Lokpal members? That won’t be possible because its members will be selected by judges, citizens and constitutional authorities and not by politicians, through a completely transparent and participatory process.
  • What if some officer in Lokpal becomes corrupt? The entire functioning of Lokpal/ Lokayukta will be completely transparent. Any complaint against any officer of Lokpal shall be investigated and the officer dismissed within two months.
  • What will happen to existing anti-corruption agencies? CVC, departmental vigilance and anti-corruption branch of CBI will be merged into Lokpal. Lokpal will have complete powers and machinery to independently investigate and prosecute any officer, judge or politician.
  • It will be the duty of the Lokpal to provide protection to those who are being victimized for raising their voice against corruption.
So we are basically setting up a new institution which is supposed to be independent, but how can this institution be independent, how would the members of the committee be appointed, it is always mentioned that the committee would be comprised of eminent people, but who would the judge of this, we are the people who knowingly elect so called corrupt people into parliament, so should we be responsible for appointing people ? If not us then who is going to this.

The next being who is going to conduct the investigations and how can it me made sure that the investigations are unbiased, if the corrupt are able to coarse the existing investigation agencies, I am sure that this would be no exception, and how would the timeline of one year for investigation and one year for trail be met? where are the proposed changes for the judicial systems which would allow this timeline to come into existence ? And what would be the appeal process ? the officer/politician would always say that they have done nothing wrong and would want to appeal, In this scenario are they re investigated or would the initial investigation and judgement would be held authoritative ?

And i would not even try to address the point of recovery of loss from convicted as this seems too much hypothetical, good luck trying to get back money from A.Raja or Suresh Kalmadi.

And if Lokpal would be approached for every other issue, how is it going to address the huge list of complaints that it is going to receive ? again we would be ending up in a system which looks like our judicial system.

Again coming back to the process of selection of members this is a point which has not been addressed to in any of the discussions that i have seen. There is no guarantee that even after all the other anti corruption agencies are merged this  institution would independent enough or that the people in this institution cannot be influenced, so how can this be addressed ?

The very first counter argument that i always receive is that this a begging step and and we would have to start somewhere. But if we are fighting for it so passionately why settle for first step why not for more? , I welcome you to join this discussion and educate me if I am wrong but I still don't see light at the end of the dark tunnel of corruption we are in.