Enact India's undiluted anti-corrupt Lok Pal Bill sign now

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http://www.thepetitionsite.com/1/enact-undiluted-anti-corrupt-lok-pal-bill

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www.dailyexcelsior.com/01mar19/national.htm
Defence bribery affair underscores need for appointing Lok Pal

The videotaped defence bribery affair has underscored a long-recognised need over which the authorities have vacillated while scandal after scandal has rocked the nation's political life - appointing a Lok Pal, India's much-heralded anti-corrupt ombudsman conceived 35 years ago but still nowhere in sight.

Members of Parliament(s) must be placed under its purview to promote accountability and must not be excluded from its jurisdiction.

For decades, the authorities have let the grass grow under their feet while corruption has gone on unbridled - scam after scam bursting forth on the nation's political stage, eroding public values, chipping away at public morale and cynicising public mind.

The concept of Lok Pal - inspired by Sweden's ombudsman - grew out of an interim report on the problem of redressal of citizens' grievances submitted in 1966 by the Administrative Reforms Commission or ARC headed by Morarji Desai. The very thought of someone to whom an Indian citizen could turn with a complaint of corruption or administrative excesses against the mighty of the land was a whiff of fresh air.

Two years later, the Lok Pal and the Lokayuktas Bill, 1968 was introduced in the 4th Lok Sabha, when late Mrs Indira Gandhi was Prime Minister. It was considered by a joint committee of the two Houses of Parliament and passed by the Lok Sabha in 1969. It was pending in the Rajya Sabha when the Lok Sabha was dissolved. The bill lapsed.

Over the years, with political and public life getting increasingly mired in scandalous goings-on and some Governments at the Centre or in states even losing office over issues involving integrity - Bofors, Hawala, Fodder, Urea, Telecom, Mining, Urban Development (UD) to name just a few controversies - the need for Lok Pal and other reforms has got more and more acute.

But resistance to the bill appears manifest in the fact that even after being tabled six more times - in 1971, 1977, 1985, 1989, 1996 and 1998, the last time by the then Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee - it has never again been put to vote.

The concern was echoed by the then Prime Minister Mr Vajpayee while opening a conference of Lokayuktas or state ombudsmen some weeks ago (before March 19, 2001).

As the then PM Mr Vajpayee put it, rampant corruption over the past few decades and the failure to catch and punish the corrupt has bred contempt for the law and led to widespread cynicism among the people, causing a decline in moral values in Indian society. Experience has shown that our efforts to strengthen probity in civil service and the polity cannot yield desired results without extending the norms of accountability to the judiciary. The inability of our judicial system to deliver speedy justice has itself become the source of much injustice. It has also eroded the credibility of our judiciary in the eyes of the public, Mr Vajpayee had told delegates.

Noting that corruption was detrimental to development, he had announced that a Group of Ministers was putting together a new draft of the Lok Pal Bill, which would be introduced in Parliament soon (in 2001).

On his part, Mr Vajpayee had volunteered to submit to its jurisdiction by vesting the Lok Pal "with adequate powers to deal with charges of corruption against anyone, including the Prime Minister."

Authorities acknowledge that even the implementation of Lokayuktas in states has not been satisfactory. Lokayuktas exist in barely 17 out of 35 states and UTs and do not have uniform jurisdiction over Chief Ministers or Members of State Legislatures. Nor is the system entirely effective.

For instance, between 1986 and 2000, the Karnataka Lokayukta's ordered investigation in 2,840 cases, of which 1,677 were charge-sheeted but only six percent cases ended in conviction. The bulk - 1,118 - were pending trial.

Originally, the Lok Pal Bill was to place under scrutiny the conduct of all public functionaries and political leaders, including the Prime Minister, the members of the cabinet, as well as all members of both Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha. It would have MPs and members of their immediate family declare personal assets each year they remain in office.

The bill was scheduled to be introduced for the eighth time in November 2000, but the move appears/appeared to have been bogged down because of demands to leave MPs out of its sway.

An argument advanced for excluding MPs from its ambit is that Lok Pal should only mind the affairs of those wielding Government and ministerial office who take decisions affecting citizens and therefore have the potential to abuse it for personal gain.

But activists for MPs' inclusion point out that legislators exercise enormous influence in shaping laws, policy and decisions which is fundamentally important and has potential for abuse.

MPs are also empowered to take decisions such as spending constituency development funds, the LSS-TII (Lok Sevak Sangh, a Non-Governmental Organisation, and its sister NGO, Transparency-International India) spokesman said. A few MPs have been known to accept bribes and misuse Government property and ever increasing facilities and perquisites for personal benefit.

A well known example is the acquittal of four Jharkhand Mukti Morcha MPs who allegedly voted for the Narasimha Rao Government in return for monetary consideration. The magic words that got them off were written into Article 105 of the Indian Constitution: No Member of Parliament shall be liable to any proceedings in any court in respect of anything said or any vote given by him in Parliament or any committee thereof.

The episode has occasioned calls to change such provisions. Law Commission Chairman Justice B P Jeevan Reddy had sought (in 2001) to kick off a public debate by suggesting that bribe-taking legislators should be liable for prosecution. He had suggested including a new clause requiring that nothing... Should bar the prosecution of a Member of Parliament under the Prevention of Corruption Act etc, if they take money for voting in Parliament.

Appointing Lok Pal is one of seven measures the LSS (Lok Sevak Sangh, a Non-Governmental Organisation) has been stressing to further the cause of probity in public life. The others include enacting laws giving citizens access to information, plugging loopholes to discourage defections, requiring declaration of political parties' assets and accounts audit, debarring corrupt and criminal citizens from contesting elections, speedy trial of erring politicians and forfeiture of illegally acquired property, most of which have been under legislative consideration for years, even decades.

Conclusion:

Lok Pal Bill must place under scrutiny the conduct of all public functionaries and political leaders, including the Prime Minister (PM), the members of the cabinet, as well as all members of both Rajya Sabha / Upper House and Lok Sabha / Lower House. The Lok Pal must be vested "with adequate powers to deal with charges of corruption against anyone, including the Prime Minister (PM)."

MPs/legislators exercise enormous influence in shaping laws, policy and decisions which is fundamentally important and has potential for abuse. MPs are also empowered to take decisions such as spending constituency development funds. A few MPs have been known to accept bribes and misuse Government property and ever increasing facilities and perquisites for personal benefit.

Members of Parliaments (both the Upper House / Rajya Sabha and Lower House / Lok Sabha) must be placed under its purview to promote accountability. MPs must not be excluded from its jurisdiction. MPs and members of their immediate family must declare personal assets each year they remain in office.

Bribe-taking legislators should be liable for prosecution. Nothing should bar the prosecution of a Member of Parliament under the Prevention of Corruption Act etc, if they take money for voting in Parliament.

Lokayuktas must exist in each and every Indian state and Union Territory (UT) and must have uniform power, function and jurisdiction over Chief Ministers (CMs) and Members of State Legislatures / Councils (MLAs/MLCs) across the country. In case of Lokayuktas, MLAs / MLCs and members of their immediate family/families must declare personal assets each year they remain in office. Often, legislators are deliberately kept out of the purview of lokayuktas, which is against the basic premise of having such an institution.

The institutions of Lok Pal and Lok Ayuktas shouldn't be dependent on central and state government agencies to carry out their investigations. Proceedings before the Lok Pals and Lokayuktas should be treated as judicial proceedings investing them with the jurisdiction, power and authority to punish for contempt of itself.

The jurisdiction of the Lok Pal and Lokayukta ombudsmen should extend to cases of corruption involving ministers, legislators and secretaries and it should also probe general public grievances. Administrative cadres shouldn't be excluded from the purview of Lok Pals and Lokayuktas. The post of Upa Lokayuktas in the states shouldnt be scrapped.

Lokayuktas should be given the power to suspend and revoke suspension of corrupt officials. Section 36 of CrPC should be amended to confer police power on the Lokayuktas. Lokayuktas should be given suo motu powers (powers to investigate on their own without waiting for someone to file a complaint) to investigate officials as well as politicians.

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Tasha OconnellBy:
International PolicyIn:
Petition target:
Honble Supreme Court, PM, President, Administrative Reforms Commission (ARC), Members of Parliaments / MPs of (Lok Sabha/Lower House & Rajya Sabha/Upper House), Chief Ministers (CMs), Members of Legislative Assemblies/Councils (MLAs/MLCs) & Chief Secys

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