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‘Lokpal fine, but can’t be like a super-government’

Posted by on June 15, 2011 0 Comment

In the three months of the Jan Lokpal Bill proposed by the Anna Hazare group, the debate has lately been joined by men of experience who caution us not to undermine the constitutional scheme or degrade elected representatives of the people.

For instance, Mr Prabhat Kumar, who was Cabinet Secretary under Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, supports the “clear rationale for tough measures against the corrupt in authority”, but worries that the “distrust of all politicians despite their representative legitimacy is not healthy for democratic functioning of the state”.

Over three days, this newspaper will bring to its readers voices from civil society that need a hearing as the debate proceeds.

In a letter to the government, Mr Kumar, now with the Centre for Governance at New Delhi, observes, “The NGOs who are party to the draft Jan Lokpal Bill cannot assume the garb of incorruptibility and for being the sole spokesmen of civil society.” He urges that the discussion be broadened.

Mr Kumar thinks that the nomenclature of the proposed Jan Lokpal legislation should be changed to “National Commission against Corruption Act” with exclusive focus on corruption, and not including aims such as making the government more efficient or redress various public grievances.

According to the former Cabinet Secretary, the Hazare recommendation through Clause 8 (5) — is tantamount to making the commission “a super-government creature”. If it goes through, “the legitimately elected government becomes totally powerless. It would be assuming the powers of the President and the government without any legitimacy of people’s representation.”

Mr Kumar says the “actions of the (proposed Jan Lokpal) should be subject to judicial review and that the judiciary should be kept out of its purview. Corruption charges against the judiciary need to be dealt with through a judicial accountability bill. “Otherwise there would be a possibility of the Lokpal morphing into an unbridled monster,” he notes. He also says that “it cannot be ensured if an all-powerful Jan Lokpal will not misuse its powers”.

“Making impossible demands” is the right of the people, says Mr Kumar, but adds that “it would be absurd to expect the Jan Lokpal, as described in the draft floated by a section of civil society, as a cure-all for all ills of governance”.

The core of the solution to dealing with corruption is to free the anti-graft machinery from the control of the government of the day, and this can only happen with a “new legislation”, observes Mr Kumar. However, it is also important to have other reforms simultaneously, he says. In this connection he points to recommendations of the Administrative Reforms Commission II.

The chairman of the Rajya Sabha should chair the committee (commission) that is proposed, according to Mr Kumar, and not the most senior judge of the Supreme Court. He says it is to take matters to their “absurd extreme” to propose that the Lokpal Commission should include Magsaysay awardees, Nobel laureates and Bharat Ratnas. He calls the idea “ludicrous” as “each of these distinguished persons may or may not be of unimpeachable integrity”. Asian Age

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