Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Making Lokpal Redundant In The Name Of Feasibility

The mental framework of our law makers and its enforcers is an area that has always amused me. While Parliament of India passes laws without much application of mind, the Executive branch always tries to give as less power to citizens as possible.

Take the example of recent intention of Indian government to weed out undesirable and infeasible provisions from the draft Jan Lokpal Bill 2011. None can doubt that it is an important tool to fight the omnipresent corruption existing in India. Therefore, the proposed Jan Lokpal Bill 2011 must be as effective and strong as possible.

The Jan Lokpal Bill 2011 itself requires numerous “Improvements and Additions” says Praveen Dalal, managing partner of New Delhi based law firm Perry4Law and a Supreme Court lawyer. If Jan Lokpal Bill 2011 has to be successful it must incorporate many more issues like Technology, Whistleblower Protection, Harmonisation between Judicial and Lokpal fields, Right to Information, Mandatory E-Governance Services, etc, suggests Dalal. The Jan Lokpal Bill 2011 must be Techno Legal to be most successful, suggests Dalal. In short, the proposed Jan Lokpal Bill 2011 must be Strong and Effective. By confining it to either the Governmental version or the version of Civil Activists, we are not going to achieve anything, suggests Dalal.

Even in the draft suggested by civil society activists, the government is planning to strike down some of the most important provisions of the same. The main objective of the proposed Lokpal authority is to punish corrupt people and to meet this objective it must have wide powers with enforceability.

For instance, the government seems to be against the provision that empowers the office of the Lokpal to intercept telephone conversations. While Indian government has been using the unregulated and unaccountable telephone tapping powers for long, it is apprehensive of conferring this power upon Lokpal. This shows the double standards that Indian government is adopting.

India is the only country of the World where Phone Tapping and Interceptions are done without a Court Warrant and by Executive Branch of the Constitution of India, informs Dalal. Phone Tapping in India is “Unconstitutional” and the Parliament of India has not thought it fit to enact a “Constitutionally Sound Law” for Phone Tappings and Lawful Interceptions. Even the Supreme Court’s directions in PUCL case have proved futile and presently the Court is dealing with the issue once more, informs Dalal.

The proposed exercise by Indian government to formulate a balanced Lokpal bill should not be a mere formality and it requires serious deliberations. There are many techno legal experts in India who can really provide valuable contribution in this regard. Before finalising the Lokpal bill, it would be imperative if opinion of such experts is also taken.