India is a country where honesty and integrity in public and private life have been glorified and upheld in great epics such as the Vedas, Upanishads and in the books and practices of every religion practiced here. Yet, India today is one of the most corrupt countries in the world.
The basic idea of the Lok Pal is borrowed from the office of ombudsman, which has played an effective role in checking corruption and wrong-doing in Scandinavian and other nations.
Bringing public servants under a scanner which makes them strictly accountable is the start of a movement against corruption in India. And one significant step in attacking the spectre of corruption in India will be the implementation of the lok pal bill. The misdeeds committed during the Emergency remind us of the necessity of including the PM within the purview of the Lokpal.
PRESENT ANTI-CORRUPTION SYSTEMS:
At central Government level, there is Central Vigilance Commission, Departmental vigilance and CBI. CVC and Departmental vigilance deal with vigilance (disciplinary proceedings) aspect of a corruption case and CBI deals with criminal aspect of that case.
Central Vigilance Commission: CVC is the apex body for all vigilance cases in Government of India.
• However, it does not have adequate resources commensurate with the large number of complaints that it receives. CVC is a very small set up with a staff strength less than 200. It is supposed to check corruption in more than 1500 central government departments and ministries, some of them being as big as Central Excise, Railways, Income Tax etc. Therefore, it has to depend on the vigilance wings of respective departments. It directly enquires into a few complaints on its own, especially when it suspects motivated delays or where senior officials could be implicated.
• CVC is merely an advisory body. Central seeks CVC’s advice on various corruption cases. However, they are free to accept or reject CVC’s advice. Even in those cases, which are directly enquired into by the CVC, it can only advise government. CVC mentions these cases of non-acceptance in its monthly reports and the Annual Report to Parliament. But these are not much in focus in Parliamentary debates or by the media.
• Experience shows that CVC’s advice to initiate prosecution is rarely accepted and whenever CVC advised major penalty, it was reduced to minor penalty. Therefore, CVC can hardly be treated as an effective deterrent against corruption.
• CVC cannot direct CBI to initiate enquiries against any officer of the level of Joint Secretary and above on its own. The CBI has to seek the permission of that department, which obviously would not be granted if the senior officers of that department are involved and they could delay the case or see to it that permission would not be granted.CVC does not have powers to register criminal case. It deals only with vigilance or disciplinary matters.
• It does not have powers over politicians. If there is an involvement of a politician in any case, CVC could at best bring it to the notice of the Government. There are several cases of serious corruption in which officials and political executive are involved together.
• It does not have any direct powers over departmental vigilance wings. Often it is seen that CVC forwards a complaint to a department and then keeps sending reminders to them to enquire and send report. Many a times, the departments just do not comply. CVC does not have any really effective powers over them to seek compliance of its orders.
• CVC does not have administrative control over officials in vigilance wings of various central government departments to which it forwards corruption complaints. Though the government does consult CVC before appointing the Chief Vigilance Officers of various departments, however, the final decision lies with the government. Also, the officials below CVO are appointed / transferred by that department only. Only in exceptional cases, if the CVO chooses to bring it to the notice of CVC, CVC could bring pressure on the Department to revoke orders but again such recommendations are not binding.
• Appointments to CVC are directly under the control of ruling political party, though the leader of the Opposition is a member of the Committee to select CVC and VCs. But the Committee only considers names put up before it and that is decided by the Government. The appointments are opaque.
• CVC Act gives supervisory powers to CVC over CBI. However, these supervisory powers have remained ineffective. CVC does not have the power to call for any file from CBI or to direct them to do any case in a particular manner. Besides, CBI is under administrative control of DOPT rather than CVC.
Therefore, though CVC is relatively independent in its functioning, it neither has resources nor powers to enquire and take action on complaints of corruption in a manner that meets the
expectations of people or act as an effective deterrence against corruption.
Departmental Vigilance Wings: Each Department has a vigilance wing, which is manned by officials from the same department (barring a few which have an outsider as Chief Vigilance Officer. However, all the officers under him belong to the same department).
• Since the officers in the vigilance wing of a department are from the same department and they can be posted to any position in that department anytime, it is practically impossible for them to be independent and objective while inquiring into complaints against their colleagues and seniors. If a complaint is received against a senior officer, it is impossible to enquire into that complaint because an officer who is in vigilance today might get posted under that senior officer some time in future.
• In some departments, especially in the Ministries, some officials double up as vigilance officials. It means that an existing official is given additional duty of vigilance also. So, if some citizen complaints against that officer, the complaint is expected to be enquired into by the same officer. Even if someone complaints against that officer to the CVC or to the Head of that Department or to any other authority, the complaint is forwarded by all these agencies and it finally lands up in his own lap to enquire against himself. Even if he recues himself from such inquiries, still they have to be handled by those who otherwise report to him. There are indeed examples of such absurdity.
• There have been instances of the officials posted in vigilance wing by that department having had a very corrupt past. While in vigilance, they try to scuttle all cases against themselves. They also turn vigilance wing into a hub of corruption, where cases are closed for consideration. Departmental vigilance does not investigate into criminal aspect of any case. It does not have the powers to register an FIR. They also do not have any powers against politicians.
• Since the vigilance wing is directly under the control of the Head of that Department, it is practically impossible for them to enquire against senior officials of that department.
Therefore, the vigilance wing of any department is seen to soft-pedal on genuine complaints or used to enquire against “inconvenient” officers.
Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI): CBI has powers of a police station to investigate and register FIR. It can investigate any case related to a Central Government department on its own or any case referred to it by any state government or any court.
• CBI is overburdened and does not accept cases even where amount of defalcation is alleged to be around Rs 1 crore.
• CBI is directly under the administrative control of Central Government.
• So, if a complaint pertains to any minister or politician who is part of a ruling coalition or a
bureaucrat who is close to them, CBI’s credibility has suffered and there is increasing publicperception that it cannot do a fair investigation and that it is influenced to to scuttle these cases.
• Again, because CBI is directly under the control of Central Government, CBI is perceived to have been often used to settle scores against inconvenient politicians.
Therefore, if a citizen wants to make a complaint about corruption by a politician or an official in the Central Government, there isn’t a single anti-corruption agency which is effective and independent of the government, whose wrongdoings are sought to be investigated. CBI has powers but it is not independent. CVC is independent but it does not have sufficient powers or resources.
LOK PAL BILL:
In India, the Jan Lokpal Bill (also referred to as the citizens’ ombudsman bill) is a draft anti-corruption law that would create an ombudsman called the Jan Lokpal; this would be an independent body similar to the Election Commission with the power to prosecute politicians and bureaucrats without prior government permission.
The bill proposes the institution of the office of Lokpal (Ombudsman) at the center and local Lokayukta at the state level. The bill is designed to create an effective anti-corruption and grievance redressal system that effectively deters corruption while providing effective protection to whistleblowers.
As of 2010, India is amongst the most corrupt governments in the world, though one of the least corrupt in South Asia. India needs to deal with the malice of corruption and improve governance in Asia’s third-largest economy.
Criminalization of Indian politics is a serious problem. In July 2008 The Washington Post reported that nearly a fourth of the 540 Indian Parliament members faced criminal charges, “including human trafficking, immigration rackets, embezzlement, rape and even murder”.
An international watchdog conducted a study on the illicit flight of money from India, perhaps the first ever attempt at shedding light on a subject steeped in secrecy, concludes that India has been drained of $462 billion (over Rs 20 lakh crore) between 1948 and 2008. The amount is nearly 40% of India’s annual gross domestic product.
India tops the list for black money in the entire world with almost US$1456 billion in Swiss banks (USD 1.4 trillion approximately) in the form of black money. According to the data provided by the Swiss Banking Association Report (2006), India has more black money than the rest of the world combined. Indian Swiss bank account assets are worth 13 times the country’s national debt. Indian black money is sometimes physically transferred abroad.
The CEO of a Mumbai-based equity firm recently told journalists that the money is flown abroad in “special flights” out of Mumbai and Delhi airports to Zurich. Indeed Indians would be the largest depositors of illegal money in Swiss banks, according to sources in the banking industry. The estimated average amount stashed away annually from India during 2002–2006 is $27.3 billion US dollars.
Independent reports have recently calculated India’s traditionally ruling family’s (Gandhi’s) financial net worth to be anywhere between $9.41 billion (Rs 42,345 crore) to $18.66 billion (Rs 83,900 crore), most of it in the form of illegal monies. Harvard scholar Yevgenia Albats cited KGB correspondence about payments to Rajiv Gandhi and his family, which had been arranged by Viktor Chebrikov, which shows that KGB chief Viktor Chebrikov sought in writing an “authorization to make payments in US dollars to the family members of Rajiv Gandhi, namely Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and Paola Maino, mother of Sonia Gandhi” from the CPSU in December 1985. “The recent scams involving unimaginably big amounts of money, such as the 2G spectrum scam, are well known.
It is estimated that more than trillion dollars are stashed away in foreign havens, while 80% of Indians earn less than 2$ per day and every second child is malnourished. It seems as if only the honest people are poor in India and want to get rid of their poverty by education, emigration to cities, and immigration, whereas all the corrupt ones, like Hasan Ali Khan are getting rich through scams and crime. It seems as if India is a rich country filled with poor people,” the organisers of Dandi March II in the United States said.
Despite this, India is sitting on unused foreign aid of over 100,000 crore (US$22.2 billion) reflecting inadequate planning by ministries like urban development, water resources and energy, a report by government auditor Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) has said. “As on March 31, 2010, unutilised committed external assistance was of the order of Rs.1,05,339 crore,” the CAG said in its report tabled in Parliament on 18 March 2011. In fact, the Indian government has paid commitment charges of 86.11 crore (US$19.12 million) out of taxpayer-money during 2009–10 in the form of penalty for not timely utilising the aid approved by multilateral and bilateral lending agencies.
Right to information act:-
The Right to Information Act (2005) and equivalent acts in the states, that require government officials to furnish information requested by citizens or face punitive action, computerization of services and various central and state government acts that established vigilance commissions have considerably reduced corruption or at least have opened up avenues to redress grievances. The 2006 report by Transparency International puts India at the 70th place and states that significant improvements were made by India in reducing corruption.
The LokAyukta is an anti-government corruption organization in the Indian states. These institutions are based on the Ombudsman in Scandinavian countries. An amendment to the Constitution has been proposed to implement the Lokayukta uniformly across Indian States as a three-member body, headed by a retired Supreme Court judge or high court chief justice, and comprise of the state vigilance commissioner and a jurist or an eminent administrator as other members.
Social welfare worker Anna Hazare who is not linked to any political party has forced the Indian Government to notify the Committee for the implementation of the Lokayukta against corruption as an independent body and also giving enough powers to the Lokayukta to also receive corruption complaints against politicians, bureaucrats and even sitting judges. Anna Hazare has achieved this big success through his non-violence measures like fasting till death at the Jantar Mantar place in Delhi Capital City of India . The public also gave nation-wide support to Anna Hazare in his demand for strong and tough anti-corruption law.
Whistleblowers play a major role in the fight against corruption. India currently does not have a law to protect whistleblowers, which was highlighted by the assassination of Satyendra Dubey. Indian courts are regularly ordering probe in cases of murders or so-called suicide of several whistle blowers. One of the latest case of such murder is of V Sasindran Company Secretary of Palakkad based Malabar Cement Limited, a Government company in Kerala and his two minor children, Kerala High Court ordered CBI probe on 18 February 2011. Initially, CBI showed its unwillingness for probing into such cases citing over-burden as a reason.
THE POSITIVE ASPECTS OF THE LOKPAL BILL:
1.Single point agenda of delivering quick justice. Thus ensuring less corruption.
2.Seeks to build a better, healthier and civil society in India. A decent comparison of Government’s Lokpal Bill with Civil Society’s Lokpal Bill is done here. It’s a must read and raises several interesting concerns.
3.Like Supreme Court and Election Commission, they will be completely independent of the governments. No minister or bureaucrat will be able to influence their investigations.
4.Cases against corrupt people will not linger on for years anymore: Investigations in any case will have to be completed in one year. Trial should be completed in next one year so that the corrupt politician, officer or judge is sent to jail within two years.
5.The loss that a corrupt person caused to the government will be recovered at the time of conviction.
6.Beneficiary to People: If any work of any citizen is not done in prescribed time in any government office, Lokpal will impose financial penalty on guilty officers, which will be given as compensation to the complainant.
7.People could approach Lokpal if ration card or passport or voter card is not being made or if police is not registering your case or any other work is not being done in prescribed time. Lokpal will have to get it done in a month’s time. People can also report any case of corruption to Lokpal like ration being siphoned off, poor quality roads been constructed or panchayat funds being siphoned off. Lokpal will have to complete its investigations in a year, trial will be over in next one year and the guilty will go to jail within two years.
8.Members of lokpal will be selected by judges and constitutional authorities and not by politicians, so no chances of corrupt lokpal members and if any compliant has been filed against members then investigation will be done in two months.
9.Lokpal will protect people who are victimized for raising their voice against corruption.
10.Lokpals will not need to take permission for investigating or prosecuting any judge.
11.Investigations of lokpal will be transparent, after the investigation has been done records will be open for public and Punishment has been enhanced in the lokpal.
Among the organs of state, the Judiciary has proved itself to have highest credibility in protecting individual rights. However, due to procedural complexities involved in court cases – right from filing a case to the delivery of final verdict – there are inevitable delays of justice, which often are also denial of justice.
The existing devices for checks on elected and administrative officials have not been effective, as the growing instances of corruption cases suggest. The Centre Vigilance Commission (CVC), CBI etc. have not been able to check the corruption due to their implied and inherent limitation due to which establishment of Lokpal is essential which do not have all such limitations and the burden of CVC, CBI etc. will be reduced and they will be performing their other duties effectively and efficiently.
Therefore, there is a need for a mechanism that would adopt very simple, independent, speedy and cheaper means of delivering justice by redressing the grievances of the people. Examples from various countries suggest that the institution of ombudsman has very successfully fought against corruption and unscrupulous administrative decisions by public servants, and acted as a real guardian of democracy and civil rights.
The Times Of India. http://articles.economictimes.indiatimes.com/2010-12-10/news/27614571_1_corrupt-country-transparency-international-petty-corruption.
 Albats. KGB: The State Within a State. Translated from the Russian by Catherine A. Fitzpatrick. 1995. ISBN 1850439958, ISBN 9781850439950. First edition in 1994, ISBN 0374527385, ISBN 9780374527389.
 Rajinder Puri (15 August 2006). “Can Corrupt Politicians Preserve Freedom?”. boloji.com. Retrieved 7 April 2010.