The Hong Kong Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) is the inspiration behind the much talked about Jan Lokpal Bill. The government of Hong Kong created this commission to curb the corruption that took a gigantic form during 1970s iin Hong Kong.
Jan Lokpal Bill (Citizen’s ombudsman Bill) is an anticorruption bill drafted by Justice Santosh Hegde (former Supreme Court Judge and former Lokayukta of Karnataka), Prashant Bhushan (Supreme Court Lawyer) and Arvind Kejriwal (RTI activist). Objective of Jan Lokpal Bill is to control the corruption and pay off citizen complaints. In Jan Lokpal, ‘Jan’ means citizens and lokpal was coined by late Mr. L.M. Singhvi, a Member of Parliament in 1963.
Shanti Bhushan in 1968 first of all introduced the Lokpal Bill. The Bill was passed in the 4th Lok Sabha in 1969 but the bill lapsed because Lok Sabha was dissolved before it could be passed by Rajya Sabha.
Again in 2011 the bill was passed by Lok Sabha but could not be passed by Rajya Sabha because of the shortage of time in winter season.
Passing Jan Lokpal Bill was the major agenda of the movement, called India Against Corruption by Anna Hazare. He even went on fast unto death in order to pressurize government for approving this bill so that corruption can be eradicated.
India at present has Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) and Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to fight against corruption but it is felt that these are not enough and Jan Lokpal Bill must be passed to eradicate corruption from India.
Salient features of Jan Lokpal Bill
The proposed bill state that Lokpal will be established at the centre and to support it Lokayukta will be set up in each state.
Both Lokpal as well as Lokayukta will be independent of the government as well as ministerial pressure just like Supreme Court and Election Commission. The Cabinet Secretary and the Election Commission will supervise the Lokpal. This means that investigations will not be controlled by the ministers and bureaucrats.
To infuse transparency in the system its member would be selected by citizens, judges, Indian Administrative officers and constitutional authorities. Shortlisted candidates will be invited for interview by the selection committee. Video recording of the interviews will then be made public.
Each month in the official website, the Lokayukta will update the cases it dealt with, their brief details and the outcome along with action taken or action proposed.
Entire investigation and case will be completed in a year. Any trial must be completed the next year so that guilty can be sent to jail within two years of the case.
In case the work at government office is not done within the said period of time then financial penalty can be imposed on the guilty officer who will have to pay it to the complainant. Time period to complete such cases will be one month. Poor quality of roads, passport not made in time, voter card delay and funds misused etc all come under this. So for a common man Jan Lokpal Bill is really very beneficial.
In case it is found that any Lokpal or Lokayukta member has gone corrupt then such complaints will also be investigated and if found guilty then the officer would e dismissed within two months. Independent boards will be set up in each state to handle the complaints against Lokpal staff. The board will have retired bureaucrats, judges, and civil society members as its members.
Present anti-corruption authorities like anti-corruption branch of CBI, anti-corruption agencies (CVC) and departmental vigilance will become part of Lokpal.
Protection to a victimized person for raising voice against corruption would be provided by Lokpal.
All the corrupt money of the guilty would be taken away. Punishment includes removal from the office, recovery of assets and imprisonment.
Seven members of Lokpal will give due permission to investigate Prime Minister and MPs.
Though judiciary can be investigated but its high level members can be investigated only after getting the required permission.
Campaigns favoring Jan Lokpal Bill
Though some campaigns took place earlier as well, but Jan Lokpal Bill got huge public support after Anna Hazare’s campaign. He followed Gandhian principles to gather masses. He went on an indefinite fast on 5th April 2011. To prevent the fast, the personnel and law ministries from the Office of the Prime Minister were directed to check the views of social activists and how these can be included in the bill. But the National Advisory Council rejected the Lokpal Bill on 5th April. Even after meeting Swami Agnivesh and Arvind Kejriwal, another social activists, nothing could have been finalized on 7th April. On this Anna Hazare declared the Jail Bharo Andolan (Fill jail movement) starting from 13th April. He received huge public backup and support. Because of public pressure, the government accepted few of the demands so he ended his fast on 9th April.
On 8th April 2011, a Drafting Committee was officially formulated consisting of 10 members – five from the government and five from the civil society. But the government introduced its own version of bill in August 201. Anna and his team again condemned the government version of the bill as it was not as effective as the original Jan Lokpal Bill. He again announced indefinite fast and taken into preventive custody on 16th August by Delhi police. Anna was released in the evening on the same day because of public pressure. But he refused to leave the jail and said that he would continue his fast from the jail. Delhi police then gave permission to use Ramlila Maidan for fasting purposes. Jan Lokpal Bill received both criticism as well as support from notable personalities as well as public. But we are still waiting for the actual bill to get passed by the government so that India can become a corruption free nation.