Sunday, April 10, 2011

Proposed Draft Jan Lokpal Act Of India 2011

In this media report my colleague Ram K Kaushik has well covered the issues of proposed draft Jan Lokpal Act of India 2011. While I endorse his views, I would like to add another dimension to the same. Hence, I have come up with this “updated version” of his article.

India has been lethargic about another correlated and crucial issue that is closely related to the proposed Lokpal Bill. It pertains to the necessity to formulate Whistleblower Protection Law in India.

Corruption and Whistleblower Protection are conflicting claims. A corrupt society would neither tolerate honest whistleblowers nor would it endeavour to protect them through legal and non-legal means, says Praveen Dalal, a Supreme Court Lawyer and managing member of India’s first RTI Helpdesk.

With the issuance of official gazette notification by ministry of law and justice, the joint drafting committee to prepare draft of the Lokpal Bill has been now officially constituted. However, before the good work has been started, allegations of nepotism have already surfaced pertaining to the “constitution” of the Committee.

The constitution of the Joint Drafting Committee is a good step in the right direction, says Praveen Dalal. Although the Committee has initially taken ten Members yet other Members can be, and would be, Co-Opted by the Committee in due course of time, informs Dalal. This is more so since the proposed Lokpal Bill must be as comprehensive and as effective as possible, says Dalal. There are many issues that have still not covered by either the Lokpal Bill suggested by Indian Government or the Jan Lokpal Bill suggested by civil activists, informs Dalal.

The best part of this Notification is that it is flexible as it allows the Committee to follow its “Own Procedure”. Thus, expert opinion of others can also be taken and they can be a part of the same as the “Invitee Members” of the Committee, informs Dalal.

So we must not bother much with the constitution of the Committee and proceed further. We must focus more upon the draft Lokpal Bill 2011 that can become an effective tool to fight corruption in India. The Committee can anytime seek help of other legal experts and civil liberty activists during its deliberation. For the time being, let us start the ball rolling, suggests Dalal.

We must realise that the Lokpal Bill has been drafted for more than 42 years by Indian Government and it has failed to become an applicable law till now, informs Dalal. The first Lokpal Bill was passed in the 4th Lok Sabha in 1969 but could not get through in the Rajya Sabha. Subsequently, Lokpal bills were introduced in 1971, 1977, 1985, 1989, 1996, 1998, 2001, 2005 and in 2008.

Let us at least start working in this direction. Further, merely drafting a Bill would not serve the purpose as it must also be made an enforceable law within a stipulated and fixed time, suggest Dalal. We have to generate a “wider consensus” in order to force Indian government to enact and make an enforceable Lokpal Act, 2011 till the end of this year, suggests Dalal.

It is high time for us to unite and fight for the common cause. There should not be any scope for internal fighting and disagreements. Already, it has taken too much time and anti corruption measures are need of the hour.

Further, the proposed draft Jan Lokpal Act 2011 of India must be kept flexible to incorporate diverse views and suggestions. By confining it to two versions alone would not serve the purpose. There are many issues that have yet to be incorporated in the proposed law. I hope public inputs and experts suggestions would also be incorporated in the proposed law.