The weakened 48th Report on the Lokpal Bill was released by Dr Abhishek Manu Singhvi, chairman of the standing committee. Interestingly, the Bill was first initiated by his own father Dr L M Singhvi, aimed at creating a strong anti-corruption law, based on the Scandinavian model. Here is a brief history of the Lokpal Bill and how it got weaker over the years
This is The 48th Report on the need for a Lokpal, tabled in Parliament on 9th December has caused Anna to announce another round of agitation. While the Prime Minister had provided an official, written assurance to Anna Hazare conveying the ‘sense of the house’ on inclusion of three contentious issues, these have been thwarted in the report. They were: bringing in the lower bureaucracy under the ambit of the Lokpal Bill; having a citizen charter and instituting lokayuktas in every State.
Lets look at the history of the Lokpal Bill against the backdrop of the one day agitation called by Anna Hazare at JAntar Mantar today. The move for a Lokpal bill was first initiated by Abhishek Manu Singhvi’s father, Dr L M Singhvi in 1964, as the son points out in the 48th report on the subject.
In the introductory part of his report, Singhvi’s, rather uncharitably terms Anna’s movement as ``demonstration.’’ Chapter 2 says: ``Though the Lokpal Bill, 2011 was referred to the Committee on August 8, 2011, it was followed immediately by a demonstration by Team Anna, a large gathering at Ramlila Maidan and a fast by Shri Anna Hazare. These events occupied the space from 16th to 28th August, 2011.’’
But even a quick reading of the report shows that this is far from the truth – when a few lakh people demand a statutory enactment whose journey began in 1964, it can hardly be likened to a petulant “demonstration” led by one man.
Lets start by looking at Singhvi’s Lokpal report itself to see how the objective of instituting an Ombudsman ( based on the Scandinavian model) to crush corruption has been diluted in its journey over the decades. It says:
"The initial years following independence witnessed legislators conveying the people’s concerns to the Government over the issue of corruption through raising of questions and debates in Parliament. At that time, the scope of the debates was contextually confined to seeking information from the Government about its anti-corruption measures and to discussions regarding the formation of anti-corruption committees/agencies and vigilance bodies to put a check on corruption, but it clearly reflected the seriousness on the issue of corruption in the minds of Members.
"Acknowledging the need for a thorough consideration of the issue, the Government set-up a Committee under the Chairmanship of Shri K. Santhanam to review the existing instruments for checking corruption in Central Government.
``The Committee inter alia recommended the creation of an apex body for exercising superintendence and control over the vigilance administration. In pursuance of the recommendations of the Santhanam Committee, the Government established the Central Vigilance Commission through a Resolution on 11.02.1964. The Commission was concerned with alleged bureaucratic corruption and did not cover alleged ministerial corruption or grievances of citizens against maladministration. While laying the report on the creation of the CVC on the table of the House, the then Deputy Home Minister, interestingly recognized that the Commission would be overburdened if the responsibility to redress the citizens’ grievances against corruption were to be placed upon it and the Commission might, as a result, be less effective in dealing with the core problem of corruption.
``While the country had been grappling with the problem of corruption at different levels including at the level of Parliament, there emerged globally, and especially in the Scandinavian countries, the concept of Ombudsman to tackle corruption and/or to redress public grievances.
"A proposal in this regard was first initiated in the Lok Sabha on April 3, 1963 by the Late Dr. LM Singhvi, MP. While replying to it, the then Law Minister observed that though the institution seemed full of possibilities, since it involved a matter of policy, it was for the Prime Minister to decide in that regard.
"Dr. LM Singhvi then personally communicated this idea to the then Prime Minister, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru who in turn, with some initial hesitation, acknowledged that it was a valuable idea which could be incorporated in our institutional framework. On 3rd November, 1963, Hon’ble Prime Minister made a statement in respect of the possibilities of this institution and said that the system of Ombudsman fascinated him as the Ombudsman had an overall authority to deal with the charges of corruption, even against the Prime Minister, and commanded the respect and confidence of all. Resolutions, in this behalf in April 1964 and April 1965 were again brought in the Lower House and on both occasions, during the course of discussions, the House witnessed near unanimous agreement about the viability, utility and desirability of such an institution. However, in his resolution, the Member of Parliament (Dr. L.M. Singhvi) did not elaborate upon the functions/ powers of the institution, but instead asked for the appointment of a Committee of Members of Parliament who would consider all the complex factors relating to this institution and would come forward with an acceptable and consensual solution. While making a statement in the House on 23rd April, 1965, Dr. L.M. Singhvi elucidated the rationale of the institution as“.....an institution such as the Ombudsman must be brought into existence in our country. It is for the sake of securing justice and for cleansing the public life of the augean stable of corruption, real and imaginary, that such an institution must be brought into existence. It is in order to protect those in public life and those in administration itself that such an institution must be brought into existence. It is to provide an alternative to the cold and protracted formality of procedure in course of law that such an institution should be brought into existence. There is every conceivable reason today which impels to the consideration that such an institution is now overdue in our country....’’
``These efforts set the stage for evolving an institution like Ombudsman in India and consequently, the idea of Lokpal surfaced in the national legislative agenda. Later, the Government appointed an Administrative Reforms Commission which in its recommendation suggested a scheme of appointing Lokpal at Centre and Lokayuktas in each State.
"Thereafter, to give effect to the recommendations of the First Administrative Reforms Commission, eight Bills were introduced in the Lok Sabha from time to time. However, all these Bills lapsed consequent upon the dissolution of the respective Lok Sabhas, except in the case of the 1985 Bill which was subsequently withdrawn after its introduction.
``A close analysis of the Bills reflects that there have been varying approaches and shifting foci in scope and jurisdiction in all these proposed legislations. The first two Bills viz. of 1968 and of 1971 sought to cover the entire universe of bureaucrats, Ministers, public sector undertakings, Government controlled societies for acts and omissions relating to corruption, abuse of position, improper motives and mal-administration.
"The 1971 Bill, however, sought to exclude the Prime Minister from its coverage. The 1977 Bill broadly retained the same coverage except that corruption was subsequently sought to be defined in terms of IPC and Prevention of Corruption Act. Additionally, the 1977 Bill did not cover maladministration as a separate category, as also the definition of “public man” against whom complaints could be filed did not include bureaucrats in general. Thus, while the first two Bills sought to cover grievance redressal in respect of maladministration in addition to corruption, the 1977 version did not seek to cover the former and restricted itself to abuse of office and corruption by Ministers and Members of Parliament. The 1977 Bill covered the Council of Ministers without specific exclusion of the Prime Minister.
"The 1985 Bill was purely focused on corruption as defined in IPC and POCA and neither sought to subsume mal-administration or mis-conduct generally nor bureaucrats within its ambit. Moreover, the 1985 Bill impliedly included the Prime Minister since it referred to the office of a Minister in its definition of “public functionary.”
The 1989 Bill restricted itself only to corruption, but corruption only as specified in the POCA and did not mention IPC. It specifically sought to include the Prime Minister, both former and incumbent.
Lastly, the last three versions of the Bill in 1996, 1998 and 2001, all largely;
(a) focused only on corruption;
(b) defined corruption only in terms of POCA;
(c) defined “public functionaries” to include Prime Minister, Ministers and MPs;
(d) did not include bureaucrats within their ambit
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