Eminent lawyer Prashanth Bhushan on Sunday called for a constitutional amendment to institutionalise reforms for people’s participation in the policymaking process and fighting corruption.
Delivering the 10th Narendran Commemoration Lecture on the ‘Role of civil society in the fight against corruption,’ organised by Friends of Narendran, a fraternal collective formed in memory of the late journalist, Mr. Bhushan said the time had come for civil society, mainly non-officials, to ensure due participation in the policymaking process to fight corruption. It was this pressure which prompted the Centre to constitute a joint drafting committee for the Lokpal Bill. But the Bill framed by the Centre could only be termed “promotion of corruption bill, 2011, or protection of corruption bill, 2011.”
He said the Bill “primarily aims to deter and imprison complainants and provide immunity to corrupt government employees. It also intends to harass non-governmental organisations which take a stance against the government.”
Mr. Bhushan, a member of the Lokpal Bill joint drafting committee, said: “This does not mean that the government should accept the Jan Lokpal Bill drawn up by members of the civil society as such, but should make the sarkari Bill more structurally sound. The challenges in using technology for periodical referendums on local, State and national issues have to be addressed. People should go to Internet kiosks every week and participate in referendums on different issues to make democracy more participatory and meaningful. Otherwise democracy will continue to be an illusion.”
He said: “While the government Bill offers to give protection to the corrupt and easy ways to bail them out, the Jan Lokpal Bill has inbuilt safeguards to redress grievances and bring the guilty to book. If the government Bill is accepted, it will seal the scope for probe into major scams like the 2G spectrum that surfaces almost every day. The government control of investigating agencies like the CBI and the CVC has rendered them toothless, especially when the former is being used by the government to settle scores with its political foes. The CVC too has only powers to recommend action. The appointment system too has to be changed so that it will not remain pliable to the government. Such agencies should be brought under an independent body for better accountability.”
Corruption “does not mean taking or giving money alone. Public authority deflecting from public interest owing to a variety of reasons like conflict of interest, institutionalised corruption also comes within its ambit. Privatisation, in the guise of liberalisation or economic liberalisation, catalysed corruption in the country.”
“All such practices can be contained only through a strong independent agency with sufficient teeth,” the lawyer said. Hindu