Saturday, April 16, 2011

Government versus Citizen’s Lokpal Bill*

  • Instead of the Group of Ministers (GoM) in the Joint Committee deciding exclusively on the draft Lokpal Bill, participation of civil society organizations has been demanded. There has been a call by Anna Hazare for setting up of a joint committee with 50 per cent representation for citizens and 50 per cent for the government for formulation of a strong Lokpal Bill. However, a ministerial Sub-Committee of the Group of Ministers on Corruption denied of any precedent for a joint committee. The Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS) differed with Anna Hazare and it said that its focus is not on ensuring that there is 50% representation for civil society in the drafting committee but "to demand that the government immediately announce its intention to pass a strong lokpal legislation based on wide public consultations".

  • Unlike the government's Lokpal Bill, Lokpal has been given police powers under Jan Lokpal Bill. Therefore, Lokpal can register an FIR and also prosecute.

  • The Jan Lokpal Bill proposes that the office of the PM should be under the scanner of the Lokpal. However, the Government's Lokpal Bill version does not include charges of corruption against the Prime Minister in matters of “national security, maintenance of public order, national defence and foreign relations” (Section 10).

  • The Jan Lokpal Bill has the provision that investigation in any case will have to be completed in one year, and punishment would be a jail term of minimum 5 years and maximum of life imprisonment. The government's version recommends a prison term of minimum 6 months and maximum 7 years as punishment for corruption. There is no time limit on the period for investigation in case of the Government’s Lokpal Bill.

  • Government's Lokpal will not have any power to either initiate action suo motu in any case or even receive complaints of corruption from public. The general public will make complaints to the speaker of Lok Sabha or chairperson of Rajya Sabha. Only those complaints forwarded by Speaker of Lok Sabha/Chairperson of Rajya Sabha to Lokpal would be investigated by Lokpal. This not only severely restricts the functioning of Lokpal, it also provides a tool in the hands of the ruling party to have only those cases referred to Lokpal which pertain to political opponents (since speaker is always from the ruling party). The Jan Lokpal proposes full powers to initiate investigations suo motu in any case and also to directly entertain complaints from the public.

  • Both financial and operational autonomy should be given to Lokpal and Lokayukta and the process of selection of both the bodies must be transparent and participatory without any intervention by political establishment. The selection committee under Jan Lokpal Bill consists of members from judicial background, Chief Election Commissioner, Comptroller and Auditor General of India and international awardees (like Nobel prize winners and Magsaysay awardees of Indian origin). However, selection committee under Government's Lokpal Bill consists of Vice President, PM, Leaders of both houses, Leaders of opposition in both the houses, Law Minister and Home minister. Barring Vice President, all of them are politicians whose corruption Lokpal is supposed to investigate. So there is a direct conflict of interest. Also selection committee is heavily loaded in favor of the ruling party. Effectively ruling party will make the final selections.

  • The government wants Lokpal to be an advisory body, which will only forward its enquiry report to the competent authority for action. The Jan Lokpal Bill, on the contrary, proposes powers to initiate prosecution after completion of investigations.

  • Loss caused to the government owing to corruption will be recovered from all the accused under the Jan Lokpal Bill. There shall be a separate fund by the name of “Lokpal fund” in which penalties/fines imposed by the Lokpal shall be deposited and in which 10% of the loss of Public Money recovered under section 19 of this Jan Lokpal Act shall also be deposited by the Government. However, there is no such provision under the Government's Lokpal Bill.

  • Government's version of the Lokpal Bill does not talk of investigation of complaints against judges unlike the Jan Lokpal Bill. However, critics are arguing against an all powerful Lokpal.

  • The Jan Lokpal Bill says that Lokpal will have power to direct disciplinary action, including dismissal of a corrupt officer from job, which the Government's Lokpal Bill misses out.

  • There will not be a public grievance redressal system under the Government's Lokpal Bill. Lokpal will have the powers to order redressal in a time bound manner under the Jan Lokpal Bill. However, the NAC and MKSS are of the view that the Lokpal cannot adequately meet the requirements of a grievance redressal system.

  • There are provisions to protect the whistleblowers under the Jan Lokpal Bill, which is completely absent in the Government's Lokpal Bill.

  • Lokpal will consist of three members, all of them being retired judges under the Government's Lokpal Bill. By creating so many post retirement posts for judges, the government will make the retiring judges vulnerable to government influences just before retirement as is already happening in the case of retiring bureaucrats. According to the Jan Lokpal Bill, Lokpal would have ten members and one Chairperson. Out of them four need to have legal background (they need not be judges). Others could be from any background.

  • There is no mention of the CBI's role after the Bill is enacted in the Government's Lokpal Bill. The Jan Lokpal Bill proposes that the anti-corruption wing of the CBI shall be merged with Lokpal.

* Compiled from various sources

Further readings:

Why is RTI back in news?,

Anna Hazare will go on an indefinite fast from 5th April 2011 to bring anti-corruption law on the lines of “Jan Lokpal Bill”,

Draft anti-corruption Bill,

Draft Lokayukta Bill,

Govt.'s Lokpal Bill,

Critique of Govt.'s Lokpal Bill,

No nepotism in Lokpal Bill panel: Hazare, IANS, 10 April, 2011,

Politicians close ranks by JP Yadav, The Telegraph, 10 April, 2011,

Nepotism cry in Anna camp, The Telegraph, 10 April, 2011,

Ramdev hijacks graft stage for politics, The Times of India, 9 April, 2011,

Jan Lokpal will be a ‘super' government, feels Congress by Aarti Dhar, The Hindu, 9 April, 2011,

Jan Lokpal Bill undermines democracy: experts by Marya Shakil, IBN, 8 April, 2011,

Smell of a revolution as crowds gather to back Hazare by Neha Tara Mehta, India Today, 7 April, 2011,

Lokpal Bill: United in opposition, civil society a divided lot by Manoj Mitta, The Times of India, 7 April, 2011,

Anna Hazare rejects govt offer of informal panel to rewrite Bill, The Indian Express, 7 April, 2011,

Govt, Hazare supporters agree to talk again, IBN, 7 April, 2011,

Hazare insists on joint panel to draft Lokpal Bill, Live Mint, 7 April, 2011,

BJP & CPM on activist side by JP Yadav, The Telegraph, 7 April, 2011,

Focus on Jan Lokpal Bill, The Hindu, 7 April, 2011,

Centre says it's ready for talks with Anna Hazare by Sandeep Joshi, The Hindu, 7 April, 2011,

Of the few, by the few by Pratap Bhanu Mehta, The Indian Express, 7 April, 2011,

Cracks appear in Anna’s team, Govt plans to reach out by Seema Chishti and Maneesh Chhibber, Express India, 7 April, 2011,

Lokpal Bill: Government vs Anna Hazare, IBN, 6 April, 2011,

Hazare fast: people heckle, chase out politicos, IBN, 6 April, 2011,

Sharad Pawar quits GoM on Lokpal bill, IBN, 6 April, 2011,

Don't insult this movement, Hazare tells Manmohan, The Times of India, 6 April, 2011,

Anna Hazare's anti-graft campaign gathers steam, IBN, 6 April, 2011,

On day Anna Hazare begins fast, NAC too calls for lokpal debate, The Times of India, 6 April, 2011,

Lokpal Bill: Anna Hazare continues fast, slams Congress for misleading people, The Times of India, 6 April, 2011,

Hazare rejects Pawar's offer to quit from Lokpal Bill GoM, ANI, 6 April, 2011,

A soldier rises against the government by G Vishnu, Tehelka, 6 April, 2011,

Anna Hazare's fast against corruption strikes huge chord, NDTV, 6 April, 2011,

War against corruption: Anna fasts for graft law by Rupashree Nanda, IBN, 6 April, 2011,

Hazare's action premature: Congress by Smita Gupta, The Hindu, 6 April, 2011,

BJP seeks all-party meeting on Lokpal Bill, The Hindu, 6 April, 2011,

Mumbai rallies behind Hazare in anti-corruption drive by Vinaya Deshpande, The Hindu, 6 April, 2011,

He should have waited, says Santosh Hegde by Sudipto Mondal, The Hindu, 6 April, 2011,

'It's Sharad Pawar's old habit to indulge in corruption',, 6 April, 2011,

Anna Hazare begins fast-unto-death by Jiby Kattakayam, The Hindu, 6 April, 2011,

Why Hazare, others oppose govt's Lokpal Bill 2010, NDTV, 5 April, 2011,

What is the Jan Lokpal Bill, why it's important?, NDTV, 5 April, 2011,

The fatal flaws in the government's Lokpal Bill by Iftikhar Gilani, Tehelka, 5 April, 2011,

Lokpal vs Jan Lokpal: A study in contrast, India Today, 5 April, 2011,

Indian activist Anna Hazare begins anti-graft fast, BBC, 5 April, 2011,

Former soldier Anna Hazare now fights for Lokpal Bill by Makarand Gadgil, Live Mint, 5 April, 2011,

Anna Hazare's fast unto death for Jan Lokpal Bill begins today, NDTV, 5 April, 2011,

PMO appeals to Hazare to give up fast plan by Smita Gupta, The Hindu, 5 April, 2011,

FAQ: What is Lok Pal Bill? Why the ruckus over it? by Kaushiki Sanyal,,, 5 April, 2011,

Anna Hazare plans fast unto death for strong Lokpal bill, IANS, 4 April, 2011,

Consultation shows consensus on Lokpal Bill may not be easy by Smita Gupta, The Hindu, 4 April, 2011,

Lokpal Bill: ‘no precedent for a joint committee' by Smita Gupta, The Hindu, 30 March, 2011,

Aruna Roy, Magsaysay award winner and former bureaucrat interviewed by Danish Raza, Governance Now, 21 March, 2011,