Lokpal Bill is a Farce on the Public

Former chief justice of Delhi High

Court Rajindar Sachar says that the

government draft of Lokpal Bill, 2010

is a farce on the public.

Writing in The Economic Times,

Sachar says, “it is shamefully

toothless and just meant to give a

false reassurance to the people that

the government is serious in its fight

against corruption”

In his article, Sachar says,

“headlines in the media, the constant

talk of how deep corruption has sunk

in our body politic and the nefarious

role played by ill-gotten contributions

to political parties is a spectre,

haunting the public all the time.

Lokpal Bill is a Farce on the Public

Rajindar Sachar

“But why is the government still not

persuaded to seriously consider

enacting an effectively genuine

Lokpal legislation to deal with this

menace of corruption? If the draft of

the Lokpal Bill 2010 is any indication,

it would appear that a realisation of

grave urgency is still absent in the

government. No one is suggesting

that an evil like corruption in public

life can be eliminated merely by

legislation.

“A clean public life, the standards

and character of political parties have

to be built on grounds of moral

conscience and public pressure.

Corruption in public life can only be

eliminated when, in the words of

Mahatma Gandhi, “a small body of

determined spirits fired by an

unquenchable faith in their mission

can alter the course of history”.

“But we must face the reality. Such

spirits are rare to find and we ordinary

mortals must make an effort to find

some mechanism which may

hopefully be able to keep in check

the demoralisation and corruption in

our public life. One such mechanism,

that almost all governments since

1996 have been promising but done

nothing about, is the institution of the

Lokpal, an independent body to

enquire into the lapses and

PUCL BULLETIN, MAY 2011 5

complaints against legislators and

MPs, both at the Centre and the

states.

“The government has at last

proposed the Lokpal Bill 2010, but

unfortunately it fails even to be a

cosmetic exercise to fight corruption.

It is shamefully toothless and just

meant to give a false reassurance

to the people that the government is

serious in its fight against corruption.

“The Lokpal is a three-member body

consisting of a chairperson who is

or was a former Chief Justice or

judge of the Supreme Court and two

members who are or have been

judges of the Supreme Court or Chief

Justices of a high court. But

restricting it to judges is too narrow,

and outstanding social scientists or

academicians should also be

eligible, and it should be a five

member body.

“The jurisdiction of the Lokpal under

Sec 10 apparently covers the PM,

ministers and MPs. But the

hypocrisy is exposed when at the

same time it nullifies the same by

providing that the Lokpal shall not

enquire into any allegations of

corruption against any member of

either House of Parliament unless

the recommendation of the Speaker

or Chairman of Council of States (as

the case may be) is received by it.

“Not only that but insultingly, even

when the Lokpal finds that any of

the charges has been proved,

against MPs, all he can do is to send

a report of his findings to the Speaker

and Chairman of the Council of

States, and they alone will

determine what action is to be taken.

“Of course, the presiding officers

have to place the report before both

the Houses of Parliament. A formal

courtesy is to be done by informing

the Lokpal as to what action is taken

or is proposed to be taken, which

may include the rejection of the

findings of the Lokpal.

“This reduces the authority of the

Lokpal to lower than that of a

magistrate whose order the highest

in the land, including the President,

has to comply with.

“The sheer effrontery of the law

ministry in proposing such an

insulting provision is a direct

negation of the institution of Lokpal.

What should have been done was to

provide that the establishment of

guilt by the Lokpal would be treated,

in the same manner as Sec 8 of the

Representation of the Peoples Act,

1951, as a disqualification from

contesting elections for a period of

six years.

“Further, the Lokpal should have

been authorised to impose a penalty

for the recovery of any amount found

to have been lost by the action of

legislators or ministers. The Lokpal,

under Sec 11, is also forbidden to

enquire into any memo of a

complaint if it is made after five years

from the date when the offence is

alleged to have been committed.

“Has the government realised the

absurdity of providing a limitation

period in such complaints, which, if

they were to be tried under the

Prevention of Corruption Act, would

have no limitation bar, because there

is no limitation for initiating

proceedings under criminal law

where the punishment provided is

more than three years?

“Also has the UPA government

considered that if a five-year period

were to be provided, by the same

logic would they not be barred from

holding an enquiry into the 2G scam

of 2001-02 during the BJP

government (which by all standards

should be held along with the enquiry

into the 2G scam against Raja)?

“No judge with even a modicum of

self-respect will accept such a

demeaning, low grade rate post – the

inevitable result would be that the

Lokpal Bill will collapse — an event

that legislators have always desired.

So it is goodbye to cleaning the

political dirt, notwithstanding the high

sounding calls by all the

governments.

“Regrettably, cynics may be right

when they say ‘who cares’ if, in the

process, some dedicated Gandhians

fighting for integrity in public life fast

unto death against this unforgivable

lapse by the government.”,

concludes Justice Sachar.

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