People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 35

August 28, 2011



Lokpal Bill:

End this Impasse


AS we go to press, the impasse and uncertainty over the continuation of the hunger strike by Anna Hazare demanding that the parliament enact the Jan Lokpal Bill continues. The prime minister had convened an all-party meeting on August 24, 2011. A unanimous statement was adopted by the meeting that appealed to Anna Hazare to withdraw his hunger strike in response to the assurance that the government will come with a final draft taking into consideration the suggestions of the Jan Lokpal Bill.  This appeal has not produced the desired result so far.


At the meeting, the Left parties stated that there are two dimensions to the issue of fighting corruption. The first is the immediate context where the aim should be to persuade Anna Hazare to end his fast. The government must give the assurance that the Bill that it had introduced in the parliament will be withdrawn and a new Bill incorporating the suggestions from the Jan Lokpal Bill and other quarters will be brought before the parliament.  The mechanism for drafting this new Bill must be worked out by government and, on the basis of this assurance, Anna Hazare must withdraw his hunger strike.


On August 25, the prime minister informed the Lok Sabha that his government is prepared to consider various viewpoints on the Lokpal Bill and the fight against corruption. However, no concrete shape of the mechanism that will undertake this task has been outlined. This is not surprising given the government’s knee-jerk handling of this entire issue during the past few months. In the interests of the country, the Constitution and parliamentary democracy, the government must immediately bring a new Bill that will be both strong and effective.


With regard to the larger issue of fighting corruption, the CPI(M), while seeking an effective Lokpal, had submitted a detailed note on various other measures that are required to be simultaneously undertaken if the battle against corruption has to succeed. The CPI(M) is of the opinion that the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 needs to be amended to widen the definition of corruption from the existing  one that narrowly restricts this by defining corruption as the misuse of public power for private gain or enrichment.


In many cases, power is misused to benefit an entity like a private company which is not a “person” as required under the PCA 1988. Often, there may be no traceable kickbacks or embezzlement but there may be a huge loss to the public exchequer and breach of public trust for example through sale of PSUs due to a willful misuse of power.


The definition of corruption has to be widened to include “willfully giving any undue benefit to any person or entity or obtaining any undue benefit from any public servant in violation of laws or rules”.


On the inclusion of prime minister in its ambit, the CPI(M) has suggested that this should be done with adequate safeguards. Complaints about corruption against the judges of the Supreme Court and the High Courts should be handled by a separate body, the National Judicial Commission. This Commission should take care of the appointments in the higher judiciary and oversee their conduct and enquire into the complaints of corruption. For this, necessary legislation will have to be passed. The Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill, 2010 is woefully inadequate for this purpose.


At present, the scrutiny of the conduct of Members of Parliament with regard to any corrupt practice is weak and unsatisfactory. For Members of Parliament, Article 105 of the Constitution provides protection with regard to freedom of speech and voting. The real issue is how to ensure that this freedom and protection does not extend to acts of corruption by Members of Parliament.


This can be done through an amendment to Article 105, on the lines recommended by the National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution.


Alternatively, if feasible, there can be legislation that if any Member of Parliament indulges in any act of corruption that motivates his or her action in Parliament (voting, speaking etc.), then this act falls within the purview of the Prevention of Corruption Act and the IPC.


Whistleblowers must be protected in order to combat corruption. Monitoring and ensuring protection of whistleblowers can be a part of the mandate of Lokpal, but this needs a comprehensive statutory backing. The provisions of the Public Interest Disclosure (Protection of Information) Bill, 2010 needs to be strengthened and the Bill enacted expeditiously.


In addition to the establishment of a strong and effective Lokpal, the CPI(M) put forward the following six suggestions that need to be  implemented simultaneously, if the issue of combating corruption is to be taken up in right earnest. 


(1)              Setting up of a National Judicial Commission to bring the conduct of judiciary under its purview

(2)              Law to protect citizens charter for redressal of public grievances

(3)              Amendment of Article 105 of the Constitution, if necessary, to bring MPs under anti-corruption scrutiny

(4)              Electoral reforms to check money power and role of criminals in elections

(5)              Setting up of Lok Ayuktas in the states to cover public servants at the state-level

(6)              Steps to unearth black money and confiscate the funds illegally stashed away in tax havens.


The government must move urgently in order to resolve this impasse by accepting these suggestions for safeguarding and upholding the Constitutional scheme of things of the Indian Republic. 


(August 25, 2011)