When the Union Cabinet meets today to discuss the much spoken about Lokpal Bill, the big question before it would be the Central Bureau of Investigation. At the moment it appears that the Government would skirt this issue by quoting the famous Vineet Narain verdict of the Supreme Court of India which has set guidelines on altering the nature of the CBI and also its functions.
While the draft is expected to suggest that the Lokpal may have its own investigating wing, former Director of the Central Bureau of Investigation, Joginder Singh goes on to state it would be meaningless to include the CBI into the ambit of the Lokpal.
CBI has an anti corruption wing alright, but then it does have other functions too, Singh points out. There is no point in handing over the CBI to the Lokpal and segregating one of its wings (anti corruption) would only create more confusion. Apart from anti corruption, the CBI deals with cases pertaining to the Interpol and also other crime related issues. Hence it is one body and cannot be separated. In addition to this the CBI also does work assigned to it by state governments and hence putting any wing of it under the Lokpal would cause problems for the agency.
The alternate to this issue is to create a Lokpal Bureau of Investigation which would probe cases which are filed with the Lokpal. They may have difficulties at first and there would be the issue of expertise in such cases. In such an event they would always utilise the services of some of the CBI officials who have been handling such cases and also rope in some of the officers from the CBI’s anti corruption wing.
However setting up a separate investigating bureau of the Lokpal is no easy job. The staff strength is what matters a lot here and in my view they would need 1000 investigators and 300 prosecutors.
While this agency would do good for the nation, I do not think that the anti corruption wing of the CBI has to be shut down entirely. There are cases of murder which the CBI probes which are connected to corruption or have a money trail and in such an event an anti corruption wing of the CBI has to remain in existence.
The more important aspect is to have a proper segregation of the two units as it could always lead up to a rift which ultimately would not serve the purpose.
Regarding the talk that the CBI is always a government controlled body, Singh points out that the CBI ought to be given a constitutional status. Yes, under the government it does get controlled a great deal. However I do not think it should be an independent body as it could be fatal due to the super power that it would enjoy. A constitutional status on the lines of the Election Commission of India would be ideal.
There is a dire need to root out corruption in India and we need a strong and independent body. The CBI has to deal with very important cases and apart from creating a new wing under the Lokpal, the government should also think of strengthening the CBI. The CBI is short staffed and no one seems to care. Even if the new lokpal wing is created it would not reduce any burden of the CBI as it remains understaffed, the former CBI director also points out.
Even as Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh assured the nation that his government was committed towards passing the Lokayukta government, Anna Hazare continued to accuse the government of deciet on this issue.
Speaking at a mammoth rally at the freedom park bangalore today, Hazare said that the Government bill is not strong enough. Moreover the government is not willing to relinquish control over the CBIm I doubt the Prime Ministers intention on the sincerity of passing this bill and I do not agree with their stand on the CBI either, Hazare said.
He said that he has written a letter to the PM regarding all these points and is awaiting a reply on the same.
Anna further announced that there would be a satyagraha at the Ramlila maidan on Decmeber 26th and a jail bharo programme on December 30th in support of a strong Lokpal bill.
He further said that this government should either put in place a strong Lokpal bill or just go. However I have my doubts if the bill will be passed this session, he also added.
He further stated that there have been attempts to throttle him and his movement. I have been threatened, betrayed and cheated by this government. I am not one bit scared. I have been fighting against corruption since the past 25 years and will continue to do so till I die. My movement has ensured the removal of 6 corrupt ministers.
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Spiritual Guru, Shri Shri Ravi Shankar has been a central point in the entire Anna Hazare issue. After a prolonged battle with the Government of India there is some solution to this problem.
Shri Ravishankar in this chat with rediff.com says that the Jan Lokpal Bill is only a first aid kit. It can instill some fear in people. To eradicate corruption completely, we need a spiritual awakening in the society. Patriotism, love and a sense of belongingness can help rid the society of corruption.
He further goes on to state that the he never once thought that the people of India had taken over the Parliament as was being alleged in this issue. By listening to people’s demands, the power of Parliament does not get overridden. Parliament is there to bring the voice of the people. Unfortunately, nothing in our Government works without pressure. What is shocking and unfortunate now with the party politics is that the politicians listen only to the party high command and do not represent the voice of the people. When the Jan Lok Pal bill was sent to the Chief Ministers of various states, instead of seeking opinion from their MLA’s and the elected representatives in the districts, the Chief Ministers referred back saying “Whatever the High Command says, we agree”. This is not democracy; it is dictatorship under the guise of democracy.
I will not say that the Jan Lok Pal bill is 100% perfect. It may have certain flaws which only the experts can see and rectify. There is scope for modification. Someone who can make it better is always welcome. It is not who makes the bill but what is in the bill that matters. What matters is whether it helps the common man. Anything in the Jan Lok Pal bill which does not fit into the parliamentary system or appears to violate the fundamental rights of the people, will have to be corrected. But the basic principles of the Jan Lok Pal bill will have to be adopted by the Government.
Nearly 40 scams have been exposed in the last 5 years; this has shocked the people of this country. Their anger needed a vent. In the last few months, I have travelled to 14 States across India and I could sense this issue when people would ask me in public. Because, the people have been suffering a great deal due to corruption, all of us together started this agitation last November. We were looking for a senior person to spearhead it. At the same time, Anna Hazare was leading such an agitation in a district in Maharashtra. We then invited him to New Delhi. His response to our request was, “I don’t know. Nobody knows me in Delhi. But everybody knows me in my district and I will get support there”. So, we gave The Art of Living course to people in 15 centers and created volunteers and through them began this movement. We started this agitation in Jantar Mantar with the participation of Art of Living volunteers and singers. However I must also add that the as far as I know it was always a peoples’ movement and the talk that the RSS was backing it is unknown to me.
Anna Hazare is a man of firm resolve and he has only echoed the frustration of the people. A sense of urgency was created after waiting for 42 years for the bill to come.
A wasted excercise, a total flop show and not to mention a total failure- this is how Justice Santhosh Hegde member of the Lokpal drafting panel described the final outcome following the last meeting of the Lokpal drafting panel with the government.
Justice Hegde who sounded extremely dejected at the end of the meeting said, ” yes we had a meeting exchanged a few talks. The meeting lasted 45 minutes. At the end of it all that the government has given us is a Lokpal Bill. Don’t even bother bother finding out the contents in it because it has got nothing in it. Watered down to the fullest I would say.”
This Lokpal bill which will come out will be handicapped and the government has not agreed to any of our suggestions. They want to overload the Lokpal with bureaucrats and politicians. I had told you this morning they would do this. This means the government has complete control over the Lokpal.
I am aware you are dying to know about the inclusion of the Prime Minister. It is ridiculous. Kapil Sibal makes it clear that the Prime Minister can be probed under the provisions of the Indian Penal Code and the Code of Criminal Procedure. But he also adds that the PM is being kept out of the purview of the Lokpal.
The government has further rejected our suggestion to empower a citizen of the country to seek removal of a corrupt official or politician. Further they have also decided not to provide the Lokpal with the assistance of the Anti corruption wing of the CBI. The government will now pick and chose the officials who would be part of the investigating wing of the Lokpal. Do I need to say more about the fate of this wing now? They would have control over this wing now.
The destroyer of the entire excercise is when the government said that a notice should be issued before starting a probe. I really do not know how that is to be done when we are trying to trap a person accepting bribe. This indicates the entire attitude.
We the members did put in our best and at the end of it all we could give was a Lokpal bill which is nothing but handicapped. The ultimate objefctive has failed though, Justice Hegde also pointed out.
The Lokpal act which is being drafted is expected to become a reality in the next five weeks, a source in the drafting committee informed. While the jurisdiction of the Lok Pals is under debate currently, the primary issue would be pertaining to the number of Lok Pals that would be appointed once the drafting of this act is completed and the Parliament approves of the same.
There is currently a tussle on between the two government one of which is the government regarding the number of Lok Pals. The other party has sought the appointment of 11 Lok Pals. The 11 Lok Pals would comprise four retired judges, two bureaucrats and five eminent personalities. However some members of the drafting committee especially from the government side have raised objections to the number of Lokpals and wants to restrict it to three. The source said that there ought to be three Lokpals each of them equipped with legal knowledge and if persons without legal expertise are included then it could lead to havoc. The government also doubts that the demand to include more Lokpals could lead to some persons furthering their agenda.
The source also says that currently the matter is being debated with all seriousness and it should not take more than 5 sittings for the final version of the act to come out. There are certain issues which are being debated currently, but they are hopeful of breaking even on the same.
The most important issue regarding the Lokpal act would the issue pertaining to suo motu powers. The Chief Lokpal would be armed with a suo motu power which means that he could proceed against even the Prime Minister of the country who falls under his purview. The portion where a complaint being referred to the Speaker or the Deputy Chairman of the Rajya Sabha prior to the Lokpal acting would be wiped out. Another point which will find its place in the act is the power to act against the central government employees. The earlier act which never saw the light of the day gave the Lokpal powers only to deal with the Members of Parliament and had excluded the central government employees from it. It has been debated that no minister of MP can enter into an act of corruption by himself unless he has acted along with a central government employee.
Another main issue that this act would for now only deal with the central government and its employees. The states are not covered which would mean that there would be more sittings in the near future to chalk that part out. Currently there are only a couple of states which have specific laws and persons to deal with acts of corruption. Ironically a majority of the states till date do not have Lokayukta who specifically deal with cases of corruption.
However there would be a clause in the new act which would cover the states. Those states with Lokayuktas would not have this problem. However in case of a complaint of corruption from a state in the absence of a Lokayukta, the matter could be directly referred to one of the Lokpals. Under the new act, the Lokpal can entertain such a complaint and then refer it to an agency in the respective state for a report. Based on the report the Lokpal would be able to act. However way too much is being made about and governments without a Lokayukta do not actually need to wait for a provision from the centre. The state governments are empowered to set up Lokayuktas and it is entirely their prerogative, sources also pointed out.
The issue of jurisdiction is one of the most keenly debated issues. A suggestion that has been made is that since most of the state governments have not even bothered to set up a Lokayukta, the Lokpal act should be made applicable to all states. This is a key portion of the act since corruption is more rampant in the ground level, some of the members have pointed out.