Despite the 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 the Lok Sabha. The Rajya Sabha has referred it to a Select Committee. Attempts are on, to reach a consensus regarding its provisions. Team Anna wanted a nationwide mechanism of Lok Pals and Lok Ayuktas with independent investigation and prosecution wings and special Courts to try 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 are 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 eludes the law makers. The Lok Sabha has passed the Bill providing a Lok Pal at the centre and Lok Ayukta in the states. Some states and political parties have taken umbrage at 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.
The Sarkaria Commission has cautioned against the specter of an 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, not withstanding 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 Parliament enact the 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. The supremacy of Parliament must be protected. The greatness of Parliament must be respected. Any attempts to hold Parliament to ransom for however noble a cause, may stifle the democracy to death. Charles I(1600-1649) then King of England marched into the British Parliament demanding that the Speaker to hand over to him certain Members of Parliament he wanted to arrest. The Speaker, William Lenthol refused. He told the King that as, servants of Parliament he can neither see nor speak against the wishes of the Members of the House. Civil War ensued between the King and Parliament. The King was ultimately defeated and sentenced to death. He was beheaded at White Hall on January 27, 1649. This lesson in 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 Parliament a la Charles I.
The 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. A new Commission was not appointed when its term expired. No member of Goan civil society took note of this Act, which in fact 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 the 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. This 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 Commissions 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 it may be, 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.