Monday, August 22, 2011

My idea of a Lokpal bill

In my last post I analyzed all the publicly available Lokpal bills in details. Here I am trying to do a cut and paste job and try to come up with a Lokpal bill that I believe is the best solution in our context. Before I do that, let me list down what is my expectation from Lokpal bill.

  • It should be a strong deterrent for corruption in public officials without damaging independence and decision making of these institutions.
  • The Lokpal should have jurisdiction over whole country
Prime Minister : Lokpal should have jurisdiction over Prime Minister but since any inquiry against Prime Minister can result in clamor of his resignation. The resignation of PM can result in vacuum in central government because there is no equivalent of President's rule at central government level, there should be checks and balances against exercising this jurisdiction over PM. I like the idea of NCPRI in how to deal with corruption by PM. In summary it is outlined below.
  • Any complaint against PM is evaluated by full bench of Lokpal for prima-facie evidence. Once the bench finds the prima-facie evidence in the complaint, they refer it to a full bench of Supreme Court for their opinion. On positive opinion from SC, Lokpal notifies the ruling dispensation of imminent inquiry proceedings with a notice of few days giving them time re-elect a new PM.
CMs, Ministers, MPs, MLAs, MLCs : Nothing special against then, Lokpal exercises complete jurisdiction against them and can initiate inquiries against them on receipt of complaint. The reason CM is treated differently than PM is because there is provision of President's rule at state government level and no power vacuum is created if CM has to resign.
As for MPs, MLAs, and MLCs conduct inside Loksabha, Vidhan Sabha, Rajya Sabha is concerned, in the light of recent cases of mis-conduct of members during proceedings of these houses, Lokpal needs to exercise jurisdiction against them but sufficient protection needs to be given to members for their behavior in house. We can probably adopt the model suggested by NCPRI for PM with few changes for bringing MPs behavior in house.
  • Any complaint against a member of any house by Lokpal can be sent to the presiding officer of the house, who will, within a limited (well defined) time, either approve the inquiry to be conducted against the member or if he wants to reject the inquiry refer it to the bench of Supreme/High court who has to validate the reasons of his rejection.
Public Officers : I believe that the skills that are required to inquire against corruption done by higher officers are very different than petty bribery committed by peons and lower officers. I believe that all the officers that are holding supervisory positions (i.e. there are people reporting to them), need to be brought under Lokpal. For this purpose, CVC and other equivalent agencies in states need to be merged into Lokpal. There is a difference in an individual demanding bribes and supervisors institutionalizing bribes and that's why these need to be tackled differently. For non supervisory officials (clerks, peons etc), departmental methods need to strengthened. All the supervisors need to be held accountable for corruption within a department. If there are more than a certain number of complaints against non supervisory employees of a government department, automatically it should trigger an inquiry against the supervisor of those employees by Lokpal.
The idea here is that it is the responsibility of supervisors to make sure that people reporting to them are not corrupt. Non supervisors can be handled with departmental disciplinary mechanisms.For example we could decide that if a department receives more than 5 complaints per week, the supervisor will be inquired by Lokpal for institutionalized corruption within his department.
Judiciary : Judiciary is our only safeguard against Lokpal and his officers gone rogue. We can not include Judiciary under Lokpal and to eliminate corruption against Judiciary, we need to probably strengthen Judicial Accountability Bill on the lines mentioned by NCPRI.
Summary : We need a poweful Lokpal but as I have always maintained, the most corrupt departments in India are the departments with most amount of power. A all poweful Lokpal will eventually become a all corrupt Lokpal. The government department will also have to start collecting the Lokpal officers' share of bribe and the cost of dealing with government with go up for every citizen.
We need to guard against creating an institution with tens of thousands of officers who start interfering in every part of citizen's life.
The Lokpal should also restrict itself to corruption, we probably also need to define corruption, where money or favors are demanded to get something done. Incompetence or decision gone wrong with best intentions, should not be part of what Lokpal should worry about. Take the case of a situation where there is a natural calamity and a district official needs to procure somethings urgently, if he buys goods and gets favor in return, that is corruption, but if be buys things quickly, may be at inflated prices, bypassing regular tender process with his best intentions to serve people, Lokpal should stay out of such cases.
My 2 cents.

No comments:

Post a Comment