Do you think Lokpal Bill being passed will keep politicians in check?

Students of the Mumbai-based S. P. Jain institute of Management Research respond

Finally, after a few decades and huge civil protest, a crippled Government, perhaps one with the most number of scams and corrupt ministers, has passed a Bill which will put them in jail.

The Lokpal Bill is structurally weak and just another law with grey areas which will lead to indecision and confusion. It neither provides whistleblowers protection, nor independence to the CBI. CBI will thus have another master to serve in the form of the Lokpal committee, creating divided loyalty.

It is being passed at the juncture of landslide defeats of the ruling party across four States and just before the Lok Sabha election next year. It is very likely to be an eyewash to regain political ground and establish an image of transparency. We need all the complementary Bills – that is, the Whistleblowers Protection Bill and Citizens Grievance Redress Bill along with the necessary political, electoral and infrastructural reform to create a real strong weapon against corruption.

-Atanu Biswas

The masses have accepted and applauded the passage of the Lokpal and Lokayukta Bill, 2011. It has restored confidence in the Indian political system.

The Bill has all categories of Government officials under its purview and aims to address certain basic but highly critical pain points of today’s political and legal system. The Indian legal system has been plagued by delays and is a major reason for the brazenness and large scale of corruption cases. The Bill addresses this issue by making the inquiry, investigation and trial processes time-bound. Lately, CBI, India’s foremost investigating agency, has been under attack for being controlled by the ruling government; the Bill includes a number of amendments to strengthen CBI and increase its autonomy. Moreover, at present, the investigating agencies need the Government’s sanction to prosecute wrongdoers, which makes it difficult to get sanctions for important positions. The shift in power of sanction is expected to speed up the process and increase the credibility of the agencies.

The Bill holds great promises to curb corruption, but its eventual impact will depend on contingent ground-level implementation.

-Anuradha Kumari

The Lokpal and Lokayukta Bill, 2011 misses out on providing safety to the whistleblowers. Not only that, if the complaint is found to be false then such whistleblower could be imprisoned too. Now we all know that a normal person like you and me can just provide information to the authorities and it would not be always possible to have evidence.

This puts an ordinary citizen in the position where he would not want to jeopardise his situation to turn in a corrupt officer or a politician. Even countries such as Ghana, South Korea and Uganda have whistleblower protection. A politician, who is synonymous with power and influence, can use his resources to distort facts.

-Gyayak Jain

After its first draft in 1968, it took 45 years for the Lokpal Bill to be eventually passed on December 18. Although a step in the right direction, I am still very pessimistic about whether it will be able to hold politicians accountable. I feel this was done more as a desperate measure as a response to the success of the Aam Aadmi Party in the Delhi elections.

I am not very optimistic that this Lokpal Bill will really change anything, although I do hope that I am proved wrong.

-Aditya Jain

The optimist in me believes that the passage of this legislation is a step in the right direction towards curtailing institutional corruption, especially at the higher rungs. The realist in me, however, thinks otherwise. The willor lack thereof of State governments to implement this law, an inadequate legal infrastructure and the rules governing the selection of the Lokpal members all raise serious concerns. The demands for a robust Jan Lokpal Bill were a manifestation of people’s anguish and trust deficit over rampant corruption among the political class of the country. But, the composition of the selection committee which now includes three politicians as opposed to the earlier draft, and the strict penalties over wrongful claims will deter public participation. Additionally, not bringing the legislative wing of the State under the Bill’s ambit restricts the scope and transparency of the law. Like with any policy of this nature, the devil is in the detail. Only time will tell if this law succeeds in addressing corruption among politicians. Till then, let’s suffice to say that the Lokpal is not a magic wand.

-Namrata Suri

It is slightly unreasonable to expect a nation of over a billion people to construct a polity that is free from all sorts of malfeasance, more so in a country that has glaring inequalities at multiple levels. But it’s also difficult to ignore the possibility that sometimes, people can collectively desire an outcome that has the potential of inducing an entirely new meaning to the existing form of governance.

For a variety of reasons such as corruption being extremely pervasive and endemic, especially amongst politicians, the Lokpal Bill may not be the best option. It may be far from perfect, but perfection would be too much to expect from an idea that is almost unprecedented, but promising nonetheless.

Honestly, I haven’t seen cynicism take us very far, so I am hoping that this one time, faith just might.

-Singdha Khurana

As diverse as our country is, so are our laws. Public servants and politicians can be penalised through a variety of laws like the Prevention of Corruption Act and the Money Laundering Act. The intent and vision of the Lokpal Bill is noble, laudable and promising. But can one law alone keep our politicians in check?

As a management student, I would like to look at this from a different perspective. Any law is an investment; an investment which needs capital and labour. The Jan Lokpal/Lokpal Bill has been doing the rounds in Parliament for decades and the total estimated budget is half of the Home Ministry’s budgeted Plan expenditure as of 2013. When it comes to labour requirements, the Central Vigilance Commission is critically understaffed to manage the sheer volume of corruption cases.

The implementation of the law will help check monetary corruption but moral corruption is a force that no national law can eradicate. A single law cannot eliminate our politicians’ venality; the fight against corruption involves changing mindsets, attitudes, vision and, more importantly, a constant adherence to the words of the oaths they take when elected.

-Sumesh Nair

Whether or not it will work, we want to believe it will. Because, sitting at a distance, that seems the most convenient thing to do. The Lokpal Bill may empower an independent body to take action against corrupt politicians, which may make a politician think twice before he/she commits a ‘corrupt’ act. But as long as we continue to vote or support them in one way or other, a ‘corrupt’ politician will always have the licence to do whatever he/she wishes to.

The solution, then, will be completely viable only when we make ourselves aware and responsible enough to not support someone who has indulged in ‘corrupt’ acts. The intended result will be seen only when we respond by not voting for them in elections, when we ensure they are punished in the court of law, when we ensure that they are ashamed enough to not even think of something ‘corrupt’ ever again.

The Lokpal Bill is merely a tool. Its real power will come into effect when we as citizens ensure that every politician keeps a check on himself, his thoughts and deeds with fear in his mind — a healthy fear of the public, not necessarily the Lokpal.

-Prakhar Jain