The Significance of an Accountable Lokpal Bill: The Disappointment of Last Five Years

Image Source : The Hindu

The Lokpal Bill was passed in the year 2014 after a long struggle by the people of our country along with a series of campaigns which involved hundreds of people. The demand for a Lokpal arose from the fact that there was no independent body to look into the cases of corruption, a body that could be independent of the government and that worked without fear or favor of any individual or party and tackled the cases of corruption without any interference.

In 2014, the Modi government came into power with the agenda to fight against corruption. Prime Minister Modi gave famous slogans like “Na khanuga na khane dunga (Neither will I do not engage in corruption nor will I allow others to engage in corruption).

The promise of government was to make the Lokpal function perfectly. Five years have passed by and the nation still awaits a Lokpal that is independent and fully functional to probe cases of corruption.

 There are at least two ways in which the Lokpal has been undermined in the last five years. The first is the appointment process.

In order to have an independent body it is very critical that the selection committee does not have an overwhelmingly powerful majority from the government’s representatives. In order to ensure that this body is free and independent, the law suggests that there should be five members in the committee- the Prime Minister, the Speaker, the leader of the opposition party, the CJI and one other eminent jurist.  The law suggests that the above team will select the chairperson and the members of the Lokpal Committee.

After the 2014, Lok Sabha election, nobody was recognized as the leader of the opposition by the ruling government. This implied that the selection committee had a majority of government representatives and therefore if the government was actually interested in complying with the spirit of the law, they needed to bring in an amendment to change this provision. Instead of negating the prospect of inviting the leader of the Opposition (which they failed to acknowledge) they could have invited the leader of the single largest opposition party to become a member of the committee, so the power play would have stayed balanced.

The Modi government did not do that and instead tried to dilute the entire law because of which it was never passed. Finally after 5 years the government did not take any steps to appoint any Lokpal.

And now finally just three weeks before elections the chairperson and members of the Lokpal were appointed and even that appointment was made by the selection committee which had majority of the government, which means that whoever the government favored they could bring in to the Lokpal body.

This essentially erodes the public trust and public faith even before its setup. The appointment process was also done secretly. People were not given any information despite RTI applications.

The second thing the government did was that in 2016 it brought in an amendment bill by which it ensure that amendments were made and they were pushed through parliament which completely diluted asset disclosure norms set up under the Lokpal law.

In India we witness a wide spread problem of benami property or illegal holding of wealth. Several public servants were found to be holding illegal assets and property in names of their spouses and children. The Lokpal asserted that along with the property in the name of the public servant in question, the property in the name of his/her family members should also be declared. In case a violation was to be found, it must be reported to the Lokpal.

Unfortunately this whole process has been diluted by the government. Finally the Lokpal has been setup and is now ready to function but it does not transparency or independence. The Lokpal is supposed to look into cases of corruption, but today it stands disrupted and worthless. 

In the recent years we have seen several cases of bank fraud, non-transparent military deals,  fraud by businessmen etc.- an independent Lokpal would have been best to probe and offer accountability in such matters. The non- existence of a solid Lokpal is a gigantic loss for the people.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here