Harish Jharia

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01 January 2012

Indian Politicians do not want Lokpal (Ombudsman): They rejected Anti-Corruption Lokpal Bill 9 Times in Last 42 Years?

RJD Member of Parliament tearing Lokpal Bill

- Harish Jharia 

The Lokpal Bill has been pending for the last 42 years in the Indian Parliament. Although. It was first passed in the Lok Sabha in 1969 but subsequently rejected in the upper house, Rajya Sabha. This drama of reintroduction and rejection of Lokpal Bill in the houses of Indian Parliament has been played and replayed as many as nine times. Nevertheless, it could not get-through in the upper house of Parliament. 

These replays were staged in in the upper house of the Indian Parliament, Rajya Sabha, in the years 1971, 1977, 1985, 1989, 1996, 1998, 2001, 2005 and 2008. Thanks to the pro-corruption lobbies of Indian politicians the Indian version of Ombudsman, ‘Lokpal’ continues to be pending for adoption into law for the last 42 years.

The latest efforts to raise the demand for Lokpal Bill were made by the famous social activist Anna Hazare, in association with the Civil Society, spearheading the ‘India against Corruption’ movement across the country. Anna Hazare had to go on repeated attempts of fast unto death for motivating the Indian government to draft a Lokpal bill and get it passed in the parliament, eventually making it a law. The movement initiated by Anna Hazare and his team turned into a national movement and the people of the entire country came out in open, demanding for the Lokpal bill. 

The Indian government obviously scared of the unprecedented movement spreading fast, across the length and breadth of the country, finally agreed reluctantly for a joint drafting committee for the proposed Lokpal bill. They nominated 5 members from the government and took 5 members of the civil society.  The exercise of drafting the bill also started after the government published official notification authenticating the joint drafting committee. 

The members from the government in the drafting committee kept a non-cooperative attitude throughout the drafting process. It resulted in emergence of two separate bills, one drafted by the government side and the other by the civil society. These bills were submitted to the parliamentary standing committee for recommendation and further submission to the parliament. 

Eventually, a Lokpal bill was finalized by the government and tabled in the Lok Sabha for approval. It was evident from the draft of the bill that some of the clauses in the bill were deliberately inserted to make it unacceptable for some the opposition members and specifically to the Members of Parliament, who wanted a strong Lokpal to bring the corrupt politicians and civil servants to books. 

The conditions that are adversely affecting the authority of the Lokpal and are covered in those clauses were as follows:
  1. The Highest investigating authority, for crimes and corruption, Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), will continue to be under the administrative control of the central / federal government. (that means the CBI will be reporting to the bosses against whom they need to investigate corruption charges)
  2. The Lokpal will have no authority to investigate the financial crimes and corruption charges, cases and the culprits viz ministers, bureaucrats and other dignitaries.
  3. The central / federal government will have more powers as compared to civil society in appointment of the Lokpal and the Lokpal body. 
  4. The central / federal government will have powers to appoint Lokayukt (a version of Lokpal for the Indian states) 
The diplomatic and legal experts have deliberately induced these conditions in the Lokpal Bill so that many of the members of parliament would oppose the bill and the same could be rejected in voting. 

If fact some of the politicians irrespective of party affiliations are not in favor of Lokpal because, they or their partners are involved, either directly or indirectly, in huge financial scams and corruption charges. Many of them are multi-millionaire and possess properties worth Rupees 50, 100 or more Crores. 

Frustrated members of parliament delivered aggressive statements, indulged in indecent exchanges of un-parliamentary comments and even went to the extent of tearing a copy of the proposed Lokpal bill into pieces and throwing away the same in the well of the house. 

It is reported in the press that the RJD Member of Parliament is reported to have snatched the parliamentary official papers from the Minister of Parliamentary Affairs who was delivering his speech, before tearing them off.  

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