THE creation of the institution of Lokpal, no doubt, will be of immense help to extricate the country from the cesspool of corruption in which it has been caught at present, but, to understand that mere creation of the institution will eradicate the scourge, will be nothing but an illusionary thought. People of this country have so much been exasperated by the dishonest political class and the bureaucracy that anything which promises to rid them of this malaise, is treated as nothing less than an elixir for life. Anna Hazare’s campaign for Lokpal Bill has been successful in mustering strong support from the civil society and has been useful in bringing the political class out of the state of complacency, however, the development should be interpreted as a small step on the long path of probity and propriety on which all of us want this nation to tread on.
It is important to comprehend the proposed provisions of the draft of the Lokpal Bill; more we understand the same, more its limitations will come to fore. Lokpal will be comprised of three members and the one heading the body, will be drawn from the judiciary. The investigation period for any case of corruption which will be referred to it, will be limited to one year and another one year period will be stipulated for trial and pronouncement of the punishment. It has also been envisaged that the property of the convicts will be immediately confiscated after the judgement.
The Prime minister as well as the Members of the parliament can also be prosecuted for any act of graft, under the provisions of the Bill. Lokpal, like Election Commission, will be an autonomous body and will be completely free of the political control. The main investigation agencies like CBI and Enforcement Directorate will be merged in the institution of Lokpal and probes in the cases of scams and other crimes will become speedier and effective.
The questions which need answers in respect of the Lokpal Bill, must be pondered over. The people, from which the institution of Lokpal will be constituted, are going to be drawn from the civil society only and it is the same civil society from which the present day bureaucracy and the judiciary is being drawn from. We know that the poison of corruption has crept into the judiciary like it has vitiated-the other two arms of our political system-the executive and the legislature. Then how it will be guaranteed that the individuals who are appointed as Lokpals, and, Lokayuktas in respect of the states, don’t indulge in the corrupt practices? The logical corollary is: It is the people who are unscrupulous and not the institutions, therefore, the emphasis should be to make the people conscientious, the institutions will automatically be sanitised.
We have had examples which enunciate that even without the existence of Lokpal, some of the Indian states have kept the monster of corruption well under control and the name of the State of Gujarat tops that list. Recently, it has been reported that 168 businessmen were interviewed about their experience in dealing with the bureaucracy in various Indian states, all of them stated the fact that Gujarat was the only State where they didn’t have to bribe anybody to get their work done. What self proclaimed social activists like Medha Patkar and Mallika Sarabhai say, notwithstanding, Shri Narendra Modi has convincingly established in his State that by setting his personal example of integrity and fortitude, he could tame the demon of corruption to a larger extent. Therefore, apart from creating institutions like Lokpal, the nation should strive to produce people like Narendra Modi who could adorn the offices of Lokpal.
Normally, it is alleged that due to the political control on them, the investigation agencies don’t perform their duties diligently and honestly; if they don’t change their attitude and keep on taking bribes to favour the culprits, what qualitative change will occur even if they are put under the control of autonomous institutions like Lokpal? We have recent examples of the Supreme Court taking very serious views of the past track record of the chief vigilance commissioner who was hell bent upon not resigning from his post despite injunctions from the highest court of the law.
Every now and then, reports keep on pouring about the threats to the RTI activists and in many cases the complainants were murdered also; if the law enforcement agencies are not made stronger and capable of protecting the lives of the citizens, how will they muster courage to lodge complaints with the office of the Lokpal against the wrong doers?
The intelligentsia and the opinion makers of this country should start thinking a step ahead of the creation of the institution of Lokpal; to man the posts of the said bodies, they have to start searching for the people who believe in the famous statement of John F Kennedy which goes like this, “Don’t ask what your nation can do for you, ask what you can do for your nation.”