NRI

Google fb32x32 twitter linkedin feed-icon-32x32

Three Problems With Lokpal

Three Problems With Lokpal

November 29, 2011

It is essential to scrutinize before we support.

Historically, we have seldom loved our politicians. They have been to us the very epitome of evil. However, it took a countrywide agitation for the Lokpal that succeeded in promoting the word ‘politician’ to expletive status.

Naturally, the movement had us all excited. The media had a wonderful time, and there was little dissent (most of which consisted of anger about Kiran Bedi’s travel bills.) The movement was consistently called “anti-graft”, which it is; but that leads us to think that anyone who does not support the movement is “pro-graft.” And I’ve been called pro-graft. I’ve even been accused of being on Manmohan Singh’s payroll. Such passions, have, however, cooled now; and it is time to coldly examine the the very idea of a Lokpal.

There are three problems with the Lokpal in general and the Jan Lokpal bill in particular.

Firstly, the Lokpal won’t consist of two people sitting and reviewing corruption cases. It will have to be an enormous organization. The creation of thousands of bureaucratic posts to regulate an already bloated bureaucracy is not workable, and is rather populist. Further the Jan Lokpal bill states:

Complaints against Lokpal staff will be handled by independent boards set-up in each state, composed of retired bureaucrats, judges, and civil society members.

This makes Jug Suraiya’s fears about ‘a Lokpal, then a Super-Lokpal, then a Super-super-Lokpal’, very real.

Secondly, the inclusion of the judiciary within the Lokpal’s ambit is a regressive step. How difficult do you think it is going to be, in a case where you stand to lose, to wail at the Lokpal’s door? You accuse the judge of corruption and out comes Lokpal like a ninja to the rescue - and before you know it, your case is delayed. In a country where justice takes years and years to be delivered, is that really practical?

Thirdly, the Lokpal is unelected. Giving it powers of prosecution over virtually everyone in the country is a bad idea. The Jan Lokpal bill includes, among others, all Nobel Laureates of Indian origin and the last two Magsaysay Award winners in the selection committee. Must a person not be accountable to anyone simply because she has won the Nobel? How are we to know she isn’t corruptible? Lie detector tests? (You know, they might do that. There is talk of Team Anna participating in Sach Ka Saamna. Sigh.)

Are we, then, to have an all-powerful Lokpal just because a lot of people are asking for it? Does democracy permit that? It might appear so; but the first thing we learn about democracy is that it is not rule of the masses: it is rule of representation. Is the Jan Lokpal bill representative enough? Are dissenting voices being heard?

Perhaps, due to overwhelming public support, confidence and involvement, the Lokpal might function well for a few years. But after some decades, with such immense legal powers, could a Lokpal not prove an irritant? Are we not staring into a future where influence with the Lokpal could make or break governments?

I may be paranoid, but the ‘anti-corruption’ crusaders have not answered any of these questions satisfactorily yet. 

13 Comments

  • Nasa
    By
    Nasa
    17.12.11 04:11 PM
    I have been involved with retrieving investment for foreign nationals who have gone to kerala in south India and believe me the whole country is corrupted to the core.
    For example a 66 year old man was cheated for his hard earned cash no one in that state wanted to help him lawyers cheated him promising to help ,politicians and police took sides they took cash from the crook in order to put pressure so the English man would walk away and not return.

    I had been back to kerala two years back when I heard of this English man with his problem, and having a very good powerful family background I decided to help him and had set up a group of friends and lawyers to counter these kind of problems and am so glad to say we have managed to retrieve the property back to the English man and his back this year doing wonderful business and now I have moved on to more cases of broken promise.

    Everywhere I went I had to pay to speed up in order to solve cases this is pure greed not because of others, stop blaming others it’s a easy way out
    Bhupendra.
  • Jaai
    By
    Jaai
    02.12.11 07:28 PM
    @Vineeta: That's very true. I'm glad you agree.

    @Ashish: Firstly, it is quite commendable that your comment is so not passionate. (Nothing wrong with writing passionately, but "You are trying to derail the movement ANNA ji we support you always" irritates me nowadays.

    You sound right about the bureaucratic posts, but I don't see any reason why these bureaucrats can't be corruptible. Until we revise payscales, removing corruption within the lower bureaucracy is not going to be easy. Hiring more bureaucrats doesn't seem logical.

    You say "This is not just about the Judges. Suppose there is a complaint which Lokpal is looking into. The accused then complains against Lokpal in a Court and court starts investigating the Lokpal." Don't you realize that this is a lot of legal work, and legal hassles are precisely why most people don't complain against corruption?

    I agree with the third point, though.

    @Joseph James: I admit to not having any idea of how to rid India of corruption. But passing such important legislation on a trial basis isn't a responsible thing to do. And the "let's try it temporarily, get rid of it if it doesn't work" thing rarely happens. They wanted caste-based reservations to last for only ten years after independence, but we still have them. I am in no way equating caste-based reservations with the Lokpal, but it shows how difficult it is to revoke a decision that has been taken with so much public support, even if that decision does not live up to its expectations.
  • Joseph James
    By
    Joseph James
    02.12.11 12:13 AM
    You concerns regarding the Jan Lokpal bill are genuine. But then what is the way out? Everybody agrees that corruption is ubiquitous in India and that something has to be done about it. Well, the civil society has come up with a concrete proposal. And there are many out there who think that it is going to work. If Lokayukta could do such a fine job in Karnataka, why can't it be done at the centre? Over a period of time this institution might become ineffective as well. Then we will think of something else. When Arvind Kezriwal & co pressed for the RTI Act, there was no shortage of scepticism. But it has worked. It has empowered the common man.
    This could work. Or it might fail. But let's give it a try. The situation can't become much worse than what it is now.
    Ashish has raised some valid points in response to your concerns. And this is how it should be. There must be a nationwide debate on the issue. In fact the civil society has time and again expressed its willingness to accept constructive suggestions. If we all put our heads together we can certainly come up with an effective solution. Or at the least we will be able to plug the loopholes/ rectify thelacunae in the bill proposed by the Civil Society.
    Personally, I feel, there would have been no need for a Jan Lokpal, if our judiciary had been stronger. The tardy judicial process and the numerous loopholes in the system are responsible for the uncontrolled spread of sleaze. The corrupt know that the money earned through graft will protect them against the long arm of the law. The only alternative to Jan Lokpal seems to be a drastic overhaul of the Judicial system, which I can't see happening in the near future. So, let's go with the Jan Lokpal. Something is infinitely better than nothing.
  • ashish
    By
    ashish
    01.12.11 06:36 PM
    Dear All,

    My views:
    1. Lokpal Organisation: I agree in current form, the Jan Lokpal will create another set of bureaucracy. I agree there are already too many people in bureaucracy but why creating another group of officials is a bad idea? India, a huge country with 120 Crore people does need good governance. If another thousands posts are created which helps tackle official corruption and creates a strong deterrent, I think its still welcome approach.

    2. Judiciary: My knowledge in this isn't much but I understand Judiciary Accountability Bill (JAB) doesn't cover Judicial corruption and needs a mechanism to deal with it. Whether it is within LokPal or JAB, it needs to be in place.
    By the way, Jan Lokpal has provisions/punishments against false petitions so that will be a strong deterrent against someone putting false claims against the Judges.
    This is not just about the Judges. Suppose there is a complaint which Lokpal is looking into. The accused then complains against Lokpal in a Court and court starts investigating the Lokpal.

    3. Lokpal is unelected. Lokpal will be a Govt appointed official just like an Income Tax Officer or Information Officer. An Income tax officer looks after Income Tax issues, a Lokpal will look after Corruption issues. Whether Lokpal only has powers to investigate or to persecute is still being debated. It does need operational freedom from the Govt to go against the Corrupt without fear. I do think the selection process of the Lokpal needs more clarity and strict guidelines, specially when the intent is to have a Lokpal structure across the spectrum of Govt Officials.
  • Vineeta
    By
    Vineeta
    30.11.11 03:51 PM
    Jaai
    Its not that I back the Bill 'no matter what'. A democratic process for selection the Lokpal for instance is important. And even after that one has to be vigilant at all times. 'Who watches the watchmen', is an issue but some form of check & accountability is essential in a healthy democracy.
  • Jaai
    By
    Jaai
    30.11.11 12:46 PM
    @Bhupendra: That is one way of looking at it. And I have no doubt about Anna Hazare's intentions, I just think the Lokpal is a bad idea.

    @Writerzblock: Thank you :)

    @Harry: Maybe some of us should contest elections then? Or atleast get into the IAS?

    @Roy: Unfortunately, I don't have any perfect solutions to fight corruption. My intention was to show that the Lokpal is more dangerous than helpful and get people to understand what they're protesting for. I don't pretend to have any idea how to rid India of corruption, but I don't believe the Lokpal is a step in the right direction.

    @Vineeta: Yes, that's the idea behind the bill, but I think they lost their way. You can't back a bill just because you like the idea behind it. It's like someone said to me: "I support the Jan Lokpal because I want to be patriotic, I don't want corruption and I don't like politicians. It's the principle of the thing."

    @Kirklops: Thank you. I consulted the version on the IAC website, thought they'd have the latest version.
    What you say, on your blog, about the police having quasi-judicial powers is right. But the Lokpal cannot be compared to the police because the selection process for members of the Lokpal is, how shall I put it, quite childish. Even though they've removed the Nobel and Magsaysay clause, they still demand 'impeccable integrity', which is rather vague, and 'a record of public service particularly in fighting corruption,' which is quite unfair.
  • Kirklops
    By
    Kirklops
    30.11.11 01:09 AM
    Nice post Jaai and probably a good time to bring the JLB back into the domain of healthy discussion. There are a couple of things I would like to add, though.

    You say:
    "Thirdly, the Lokpal is unelected. Giving it powers of prosecution over virtually everyone in the country is a bad idea."

    I had asked this question a few months back and from what I learnt the latest version of the bill does not give the Lokpal powers of prosecution to the extent of the judiciary. If it did, then that would be going against the principle of Separation of Powers as envisioned in the Constitution.

    It is, however, within the Constitution to delegate some judicial responsibility to a different branch of government/government-appointed-committee as long as the process of judicial review in the SC/HC is open.

    "The Jan Lokpal bill includes, among others, all Nobel Laureates of Indian origin and the last two Magsaysay Award winners in the selection committee."

    I don't think that's true anymore with the Version 2.2 of the JLB.

    In any case, I had analysed a few clauses in Version 2.2 that I thought were questionable a few months back. It can be found at http://cyclopsincognito.blogspot.com/2011/08/separation-of-powers-vs-draft-jan.html

    It might be a little dated and Version 2.3 seems to have altered most of the clauses I mention in the post. I am not sure if there were further changes to the JLB.

    The first two points you raise, I have to agree with. As long as people analyse what is being offered before jumping onto the bandwagon, democracy can claim victory.
  • Vineeta
    By
    Vineeta
    30.11.11 12:53 AM
    Jan LokPal is not a panacea by any means & although you have raised legitimate questions here, the idea behind this Bill is to prevent corruption. An example needs to be set which will create a virtuous circle thus raising the standards of public conduct amongst politicians & bureacrats. This will be done with public support & if the Lokpal is elected every few years it will 'represent' the people & will not be a law onto itself. Together with the oversight committee that also creates outreach programmes to inform & educate everyone of what is within their rights & how to inform on corrupt officals in their locality a cleaner India could be envisaged. With people behind it and with many increasingly aware of their right to information its going to be a bottom up approach which will act as a deterrent against corruption. Of course, continuous vigilance is needed to ensure the standards are maintained in decades to come!
  • Roy
    By
    Roy
    29.11.11 11:14 PM
    Nice post but while showing the drawback, I wish u had shown the solutions too because even u will agree that we need something like janlokpal to control politicians and bureaucrats. Wil wait for ur reply.
  • HARRY
    By
    HARRY
    29.11.11 08:35 PM
    I think most politicians and civil servants are corrupted regardless of the party they support, and you can't get any thing done in India with out paying any bribe so most of the things you said is meaning less.

    ps your post is good.

    HARRY
  • Writerzblock
    By
    Writerzblock
    29.11.11 03:23 PM
    Very well thought out. Good post!!
  • bhupendra
    By
    bhupendra
    29.11.11 06:59 AM
    Sorry the movie's name is just "Roti" in english Bread, here is the utube link.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m8A_dzwnHnQ

  • bhupendra
    By
    bhupendra
    29.11.11 06:50 AM
    The uncontrolled corruption in India is an after effect of thousand year of slavery under so many invaders. Its not going so easily at least in next 1000 years, the corrupt DNA takes very long time in its proper cleansing , its a very slow process indeed , may be only .001% gets transfer to the second generation if one learns and pledges to be uncorrupted. If I see anything under this light I find every problem's origin to this long slavery.We were a glorious , pure and civilized civilization 1000 years back as per our rich ancient texts. Anna's and his team's intentions are very patriotic but they are still not getting full support. Media gets funded/bailout by government , gov takes stupid decisions to raise money for election campaigns , media does their image making ,how can u expect corruption to go. Even if kiran bedi forged her air travel bills for KFC or Macdonald's or for any reason she has every right to point her fingers on to other who are more corrupt or equally corrupt. allegations on team Anna are to push them to back foot ..and this reminds me of famous Rajesh Khann song from the movie Roti kapda aur makaan.. yaar humari baat suno....... pehla pathar wo mare jisney paap na kiya ho...jo paapi na ho " :)

    so wait and watch for 1000 years...

Leave a comment