Critics’ Corner: The Lok Pal Bill

By Arindam S. Roy

 At a time when Corruption has reached its peak, and the demand for a strong Lokpal Bill has reached its own height, both the Government and the Anti-Corruption brigade have put forward their end of the terms and conditions for drafting this much-awaited bill. As of yesterday, the 22nd of December 2011, the following were the clauses from either end; let's take a look:


CONSTITUTION

Anna’s Lokpal: 11-member body with 5-year term

Govt’s Lokpal: 9-member body with 5-year term. 50% of members from among Dalits, Tribals, OBCs, Minorities and Women; the rest judicial members.

Anna’s Lokpal: To be chosen by broad-based team including Prime minister, Leader of the opposition (Lok Sabha), four judges, chief election commissioner (CEC), comptroller and auditor general (CAG), and former Lokpals- from a panel short-listed by a 10-member search committee, which will include 5 civil society members and 5 others elected among themselves by retired chief justices of india (CJIs), CAGs and CECs.

Govt’s Lokpal: To be chosen by less broad-based team including Prime Minister, Leader of the opposition (Lok Sabha), Lok Sabha speaker, CJI or another Supreme Court Judge or an eminent jurist- from panel short-listed by seven people of standing and expertise.

 

AMBIT

Anna’s Lokpal: Can probe Prime Minister, but only with approval of at least seven Lokpal members.

Govt’s Lokpal: Can probe prime ministers, except in matters of international relations, external and internal security, public order, atomic energy and space. A 3/4th majority (seven out of nine members) must agree on probe.

Hearings in Camera. If complaint is rejected, the records won’t be made public. If offence is proved, the Lokpal may file a case in a special court and send a copy of the report to the competent authority: the Lok Sabha. The house will communicate to the Lokpal in 90 days what action has been taken or is being proposed, or the reasons for not taking action.

Anna’s Lokpal: To cover Judiciary.

Govt’s Lokpal: Does not cover Judiciary, who will be governed separately by the  Judicial Accountability bill.

Anna’s Lokpal: Covers all Govt employees, whether group A, B, C or D.

Govt’s Lokpal: Merely supervisory powers on group C and D employees. The Lokpal will send complaints against A and B officials to central vigilance commission (CVC), which will hold a probe and send a report to the Lokpal for decision on prosecution. In case of group C and D employees, the CVCwill probe and decide on prosecution, but process will be subject to review by the Lokpal.

Anna’s Lokpal: Does not cover corporate bodies or NGOs.

Govt’s Lokpal: Covers all wh have been director, manager or secretary  or held any other post with any other entity whose income is above a specified limit or which receives funds from the public or foreign donations in excess of Rs. 10 lakh a year. This includes corporate bodies, societies, trusts, associations and partnerships, among others.

Anna’s Lokpal: To ensure time-bound disposal of public grievances.

Govt’s Lokpal: No mechanism to deal with public grievances, a matter being dealt with under a separate law. But Lokpal is final appellate authority if grievances relating to corruption are not redressed.

Anna’s Lokpal: Protects Whistleblowers

Govt’s Lokpal: Does not cover Whistleblowers; issue being dealt with by a separate bill.

 

TEETH

Anna’s Lokpal: CBI should be merged with Lokpal.

Govt’s Lokpal: To have power of superintendence and direction over any investigative agency, including CBI.

Anna’s Lokpal: Can start a probe on its own or on receiving  a complaint from a member of the public.

Govt’s Lokpal: Cannot investigate anyone on its own. A citizen will have to file a complaint.

Anna’s Lokpal: No sanction needed to prosecute.

Govt’s Lokpal: No sanction needed to prosecute in cases probed by Lokpal.

Anna’s Lokpal: Can dismiss or demote officials.

Govt’s Lokpal: Can dismiss or demote officials.

Anna’s Lokpal: Losses caused by corrupt official to be recovered from him only after conviction; in the interim, his assets can be frozen.

Govt’s  Lokpal: Property acquired by corrupt means can be confiscated even when prosecution is pending.

Anna’s Lokpal: High Court can stay Lokpal orders for only two months. If HC can’t decide the issue by then, the stay will be deemed vacant.

Govt’s Lokpal: Silent on such things.

 

OTHERS

Anna’s Lokpal: Proposes preventive measures against corruption such as preventing babus from taking up jobs within two years of retirement with companies they have dealt with; and insisting that all government contracts be awarded through auction/tender.

Govt’s Lokpal: Does not propose any preventive measures to check corruption.

Anna’s Lokpal: Mandatory for all public servants to submit statement of assets and liabilities before june each year, including income of spouse, children and other dependants, such as parents.

Govt’s Lokpal: Gives legal backing to asset declaration by public servants. If they possess certain properties they can’t explain or have not disclosed, the will be presumed to have acquired it illegally.

Anna’s Lokpal: Probe should ordinarily be completed within 6 months (maximum 18 months) and trial in another 12 months.

Govt’s Lokpal: Maximum 1 year for probe; another 2 or 3 years for trial.

Anna’s Lokpal: Maximum punishment under Prevention of Corruption Act (now 7 years) should be a Life-term, but minimum punishment should stay 6 months.

Govt’s Lokpal: Maximum punishment increased to 10 years and minimum to 2 years.

Anna’s Lokpal: Silent on action against those who make false complaints.

Govt’s  Lokpal: False complaints will bring a 1-year jail term and/or Rs. 1 lakh fine.

Anna’s Lokpal: Bribe-givers will get immunity if they give timely and voluntary information and give up all illegitimate benefits.

Govt’s Lokpal: Silent.

Anna’s Lokpal: Separate authority to deal with complaints against Lokpal officers within 30 days. (Lokpal members can be removed after a probe by the Supreme Court)

Govt’s Lokpal: Lokpal itself will deal with complaints against its officers within 30 days. (Action against Lokpal members will be taken on a presidential reference to the Supreme Court)

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