Lok Ayukta - Guardian of People's conscience

By Ramakant Khalap
29 May 2012 11:57 IST

“Just as it is impossible not to taste the honey or

 the poison that finds itself at the tip of the tongue,

so it is impossible for a Government servant not to eat

up at least a bit of the King’s Revenue”

Kautilya

Much before Anna Hazare came onto the scene, issue of eradication of corruption by public men has been engaging the minds of the people of India. In fact the issue is as old as the Democracy. Nay as old as civilization itself. The story of Noah’s Ark in Genesis tells how the Lord annihilated his whole creation because the man had become corrupt. Attempts were made from the very beginning of our Republic to devise ways and means to contain corruptions. However, as the voice for prevention of corruption increased, so too corruption. It increased in geometric proportions.

Transparency International, the international body which keeps a watch on corruption worldwide, grades countries on corruption scale of 0 to 10.  India has been occupying a “Place a Disgrace” in their list of corrupt countries. In the corruption Perception Index (2010), India ranks 87among 178 countries and its Integrity score is 3.3. One may compare this with Singapore whose Integrity score of 9.3 is the highest and Pakistan’s 2.3 the lowest. Almost 2/3 of 178 countries on the Integrity list have scored less than 5.

This shows that corruption is worldwide and is spreading like an epidemic. It has entered almost every sphere of our activity. It is eating into our sinews. It manifests through Black Money and runs a parallel economy. Swiss Banking Association Report of 2006 states that, “India has more black money than the rest of the World combined”.

India enacted the Commission of Inquiries Act in1952. In 1966 Administrative Reforms Commission headed by Moraji Desai had proposed  a two tier Ombudsman structure at National and State levels. Lok Pal Bills were introduced in Lok Sabha in 1968 and again in 2005. India passed its historic Prevention of Corruption Act in 1988. Scope and ambit of this Act is wide and far. It empowers the police to act against the smallest to the highest public functionaries as well as office bearers of any NGO which gets even an infinitesimal grant from the Government exchequer. In fact it is a draconian Act which empowers the law enforcing agencies to hold at ransom the entire elected machinery. A crusader with a Hitlarian tendency can in fact turn this free country  into a huge prison without any Emergency powers under the Indian Constitution. A. Raja and others have been prosecuted under the provision of this 1988 Act. Absence of Lok Pal or Lok Ayukta does not prevent Government from acting against corruption.  The Indian Penal  has Code been on the statute Book for long.  Its provisions are routinely evoked in Corruption matters in addition to the provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act. Yet public perception, is and perhaps rightly so, that the Government lacks the political will to combat corruption.

Ombudsman, an office which is synonymous with the office of Lok Pal or Lok Ayukta in many respects, is in existence in many European countries. Ombudsman or Lok Pal or Lok Ayukta are in actual sense Guardians of the People who protect them from the avarices of the men in Public office. The Scandinavian Ombudsman is known to be a very successful institution. However European countries, which boast of this Institution, are themselves beneficiaries of corruption in developing countries. Luxemburg, Sweden, Denmark and some countries in the Caribbean, the Panamas as well as pinhead size island countries like St. Kitts have a Banking system known for their secrecy clauses. No country  in the world has so far succeeded in breaking this secrecy code except perhaps Julian Assange who recently published classified information about secret account holders from Asian and African countries. The Supreme Court of India is presently hearing a PIL on corruption. Government of India have, it appears, submitted a list of secret Accounts to the Supreme Court but has refused to divulge the names on a specious plea of absence of double Taxation Treaty with the Governments of the countries where such Bank Accounts have been held.

This issue of Corruption and Money laundering assumed centre stage after Al Qaida’s bombing of the twin towers in New York on September 11, 2001. It has been a fact that ill gotten Money is not only used for personal aggrandizement but also for financing nefarious activities including arson and cross border terrorism. The Huge network of mercenaries and organizations like Al Qaida, LTTE, and others, draw their powers out of money generated through illegal means. The drug trade and cross border smuggling are known sources of such money. Under invoicing and over invoicing of goods and services in domestic as well as International trade is a huge source of Black Money. Black Money thrives in a congenial political atmosphere which promotes, supports and draws its sustenance out of  it. India is not the only country  to be the victim of this menace. Even a billon Lok Pals or Lok Ayukta will not be able to bury this monster unless there is a worldwide movement against Black Money.

Despite this despondency arising out of the spectrum of a losing battle against corruption, we have to march ahead to contain the monster. The Lok Pal Bill has been passed by Lok Sabha. The Rajya Sabha has referred it to a select Committee.   Attempts are on to reach a consensus regarding its provisions. Anna Hazare’s team wanted a Nationwide Mechanism of  Lok Pals and Lok Ayuktas with independent investigation and prosecution wings and special Courts to try the offenders. Their demand was to do away with Government sanctions for prosecution of public servants. They wanted the Prime Minister as well as the lowest Public functionary in the Lok Pals/ Lok Ayuktas net. They want Lok Pals/Lok Ayuktas beyond the ordinary impeachment powers of the Parliament. Their list of demands is impressive but also fearsome. It has evoked strong reactions from Members of Parliament and sections of civil society other than those involved with Anna Hazare’s Movement. Consensus therefore is eluding the law makers.

Lok Sabha has passed the Bill providing Lok Pal at the centre and Lok Ayukta in the states. Some of the states and political parties have taken umbrage against the sweeping provisions. They do have a valid point when they raise the issue of encroachment upon our federal system through Acts like Lok Pal, RTI and other acts which usurp the powers of the States Sarkaria Commission has cautioned against the specter of a ultra- strong Central Government which appears to be materializing through the Lok Pal Bill. A consensus must be built around the principle of federal system of Indian polity notwithstanding what Anna Hazare’s Civil Society demands. In fact the passing of the Lok Ayukta Act by Goa, Uttarakhand and other States has already shown the way for the Parliament and Anna Hazare’s civil society to tread on. Let the Parliament enact Lok Pal and leave the issue of Lok Auktas to the State Governments.

In fact “Civil Society” championing the cause of Anna Hazare’s ideals must remember that they are not the sole repositories of the combined conscience of our country. Supremacy of the Parliament must be protected. The greatness of this Institution of Parliament must be respected. Any attempts to hold the Parliament to ransom for however a noble cause may stifle the democracy to death.

Charles I (1600-1649), then King of England, had marched into the British Parliament  demanding of the Speaker to hand over to him certain Members of Parliament whom he wanted to arrest. The Speaker, William Lenthol refused. He told the King that as, servants of the Parliament; he can neither see nor speak against the wishes of the Members of the House. Civil war ensued between the King and the Parliament. The King was ultimately defeated and sentenced to death. He was beheaded at White Hall on 27th January 1649.

This lesson of history must be imbibed by every Indian before embarking upon the task of  beheading the monster of corruption by claiming supremacy of Civil Society over the Parliament a la Charles I.

Goa Lok Ayukta Bill was preceded by attempts, perhaps half hearted, to contain corruption in Goa. An Act called Public Men’s Corruption (Inquiries and Investigation) 1988 was passed. A commission appointed under it did precious little under the powers vested in it. The Commission was non-functional during the first period of three years. New Commission was not appointed when its term expired. NO MEMBER OF GOAN CIVIL SOCIETY took note of this Act which infact was more powerful than the present day Lok Ayukta Act. At the height of the movement for Lok Pal and Lok Ayukta, I, as Chairman of Law Commission, Goa, sent a letter to the Chief Minister Shri Digamber Kamat requesting him to constitute immediately a Commission under the Public Men’s Corruption Act pending the passing and subsequent assent to the Lok Ayukta Bill.

The Goa Lokayukta Act has several deficiencies. It has no independent investigation and prosecution wings. There is no provision for constituting special Courts. The Law Commission submitted its Report No.15 dated 19th September 2011 to the Government of Goa and appealed to the ruling Congress as well as the BJP, the then Opposition Party, to adopt our report and the Lok Ayukta Bill accompanying it. The Law Commission’s draft Bill meets almost every demand of Anna Hazare’s Civil Society. But a strange confluence of ideologies evolved. The BJP, the Congress and the leaders of the local India Against Corruption appear to have met around a round table under the watchful eyes of the Speaker and decided to adopt the very bill, which is now the Lok Ayukta Act. Promises of its amendment are being floated for the gullible to consume.

Whatever be it, we now have an Act under which a guardian of public conscience, the Ombudsman, the Lok Ayukta will be constituted within 100 days. So be it and may it not be used selectively to suppress the opponents and protect the proponents of the ruling clique.

Blogger's Profile

Ramakant Khalap

Adv Ramakant Khalap is former Chairman of the Goa State Law Commission. Being a veteran politician of Goa, he has served the political arena as the union law minister as well as Goa’s deputy chief minister and the opposition leader in the past. He also takes keen interest in literature and cultural activities while heading several institutions, especially in the field of Marathi literature.

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Previous Comments

Interesting reading.. Congratulations to the Goa News on having some good contributors. Mr. Khalap explains very well what we need to know. This also shows what politics can do to good people like a Khalap. Mr. Khalap clearly mentiones that he had made a request to the then CM, but fails to explain why he he did not pursue the request. Probably the white mane had to give in to the ring master. One must also mention how politics remains ingrained in people once they enter it.. the fact that ,after explaining everything nicely , Mr. khalap vociferously mentions that it was "he" that did this and did that..... Well we shall leave the negatives and look forward to the positives, since now the white mane can roar again as a

watch(dog)lion. This will certainly benefit Goa, unless Mr. Khalap decides to meow instead of roar at the command of the Congress ring master.

- jaret chandrapurkar, overseas/chandor | 29 th May 2012 18:16

 

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