this blog is a collection of writings written by me at various forums and blogs, and some stuffs about me and my taste.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

My Take on Jan Lokpal

Last Thursday morning, when I was coming back home after my part time CCNA training, Aleyamma Aunty stopped me and asked, “Vivek, should we not support Anna Hazare? We are meeting this evening.” I thought for a second, ‘Anna Hazare???’ (2 seconds actually) ‘Oh, the guy who is on a hunger strike to bring one powerful Hong Kong modelled anti-corruption bill.’ I immediately replied, YES!

As soon as I got back home, I googled - Anna Hazare & his Lokpal bill. I was curious how Jan Lokpal will fight corruption in India.

The intuition I got was, Lokpal fights corruption by completing investigation & prosecution within a timeframe. Lokpal can initiate investigations suo moto and can prosecute public servants without government permission. It can also demand recovery of lost money from guilt's assets. Unlike other ombudsmen, Lokpal has so many powers (power to investigate, prosecute and sentence), and is free from political pressures.

Hmm, I should take part in ‘India Against Corruption.’

That evening, I joined the candle light vigil in Trivandrum in solidarity to Anna Hazare's fast against corruption. (Though I never fasted)

Amazing photos no? Thanks to Robin. That Green Shirt with Arrow is me.

Now I did have some irritating moments during Day 1 of ‘India against Corruption’ – Trivandrum Chapter program. One was Peepli Live and the other was Mr Bhasurendra Babu. His ‘Manmohan Singh is corrupt’ speech was disquieting. This is not LDF's election convention!

“But can we be sure that we are fighting the right battles in the right cases? Or is there a risk that our outrage and anger are being exploited by those who know how to manipulate the media and influence social media?” – Vir Sanghvi

Because the issue was not that serious, and ‘Support me malayalees’ was just 3 days ago, I restricted my protest to a tweet.

That evening, all 9PM News programs said, only 2 more disagreements exist between government's interlocutor Kapil Sibal and Anna Hazare's negotiators. First was the chairperson issue that was resolved almost immediately, and the other was Anna's demand for a government notification of its promise.

Government the next day agreed to notify, but then Anna declared he will end his fast only after government notifies the creation of Lokpal [joint committee].

I didn't like this. It's like insulting the government [negotiators]. May be Anna has lost his faith in our government. That along with Ambedkar's words [via] made me wonder if Anna's pressure tactics is good for our country; though better than DYFI's.

“…we must abandon the bloody methods of revolution. It means that we must abandon the method of civil disobedience, non-cooperation and satyagraha. When there was no way left for constitutional methods for achieving economic and social objectives, there was a great deal of justification for unconstitutional methods. But where constitutional methods are open, there can be no justification for these unconstitutional methods. These methods are nothing but the Grammar of Anarchy and the sooner they are abandoned, the better for us.” -  B R Ambedkar
via @acorn

BTW, was RTI & NREGA not contributions claimed by social activists? I do not remember social activists doing similar performance to bring those revolutionary acts & schemes.

Anyway, I had to know in detail what I am supporting. So I went through Anna's Jan Lokpal bill. (I am aware that a new draft is on the making, but it is less likely that the points discussed her are not going to be there in the final draft.)

Well, the bill surely can make a difference. It will not prevent Rajas & Kodas from happening but unlike current watchdogs, Lokpal is less prone to political pressures. The Jan Lokpal bill has some nice clauses that makes it cleaner, faster & more desirable than present ombudsmen. However, there are some philosophical concerns too.

(1) Lokpal is a very powerful ombudsman that combines existing anti-corruption agencies. Most believe Lokpal is required because recent events have made it clear that corrupt or people without impeccable integrity can become CVCs, CJIs, CAGs, High Courts judges, etc.

How does Lokpal differ?

Excerpt from the draft :
6. Appointment of the Chairperson and members:
7. The following selection process shall be followed:
a. Recommendations shall be invited through open advertisements in prescribed format.
b. Each person recommending shall be expected to justify the selection of his candidate giving examples from the past achievements of the candidate.
c. The list of candidates along with their recommendations received in the format mentioned above shall be displayed on a website.
d. Each member of the selection committee, on the basis of the above material, shall recommend such number of names as there are vacancies.
e. A priority list shall be prepared with the candidate receiving recommendations from maximum number of members of selection committee at the top. The candidates recommended by same number of members shall be treated at par.
f. This priority list shall be displayed on the website.
g. Around three times the names as there are vacancies, shall be shortlisted from the top.
h. Public feedback shall be invited on the shortlisted names by putting these names on the website.
i. The selection committee may decide to use any means to collect more information about the background and past achievements of the shortlisted candidates.
j. Selection committee shall invite shortlisted candidates for discussions, video recordings of which shall be made public.
k. All the material obtained so far about the candidates shall be made available to each member of the selection committee in advance. The members shall make their own assessment of each candidate.
l. The selection committee shall meet and discuss the material so received about each candidate. The final selections for the Chairperson and members shall be made preferably through consensus.
Provided that if three or more members, for reasons to be recorded in writing, object to the selection of any member, he shall not be selected.
m. All meetings of selection committee shall be video recorded and shall be made public.

Public feedback through website & videotaping of selection committee meetings make the process of appointment more transparent. This process looks like good enough to keep this ombudsman out of people without impeccable integrity's hands.

Now, for reasons I'll justify bellow, I prefer the incorporation of this transparent, better selection process into the current system, than limiting it to a Lokpal. We should follow Jan Lokpal's selection process in all top appointments; from CVCs to Judicial Court Judges to University Vice Chancellors to PSU heads.

According to Jan Lokpal designers, CAG's advices are never accepted by ministers. See this video. Lokpal prevents happening this to itself by making its announcements equivalent to Supreme Court judgments. It has to be followed.

Hey, wait a minute! In 2G issue, I can't buy CAG's finding of Rs 1.76 lakh crore losses to the government. CAG calculated 2G spectrum price based on 3G spectrum prices. 3G is 4 times more efficient than 2G, but 2G spectrum is as costly as 3G? Also 2G didn't have any limit to the number of players per circle. Government earned so much money in 3G by limiting the number of players per circle to 3. CAG has assumed that 2G spectrum value is equal to 3G's; which is rubbish! 

My point is, the option for government to reject whole or part of recommendations by CAG should be kept open. That's because CAG considers only receipts and expenditure; not upliftment that happens to people of a nation when government distributes spectrum at low prices. Once CAG is clubbed with Lokpal, its recommendations have to be followed. 

In order to prevent corruption and favorisms like what was done by Raja, let's legally give the CAG some more respect. Let's amend our laws in such a way that if a ministry want to reject a recommendation of CAG, the reason for that should be explained & approved by a judicial court like Supreme Court. To keep decision making faster, let's have a dedicated court to deal with permissions of this nature.

Also, as per Anna's Lokpal bill, Lokpal is a deemed police officer. Lokpal is also a body with judicial powers. Now, is there any country in the world where investigation & judgment is done by the same body? Will such a system be fair?

This worries me more because unlike in Judicial Courts, the judgments by Lokpal are passed not necessarily by people who have the required qualification or experience to be a judge.

(2) A very attractive section in Lokpal is Time limits

Excerpt from the draft :
30. Time limits
(1) Preliminary enquiry under sub-section (1) of section 9 of this Act should be completed within a month of receipt of complaint.
Provided that the enquiry officer shall be liable for an explanation if the enquiry is not completed within this time limit.
(2) Investigation into any allegation shall be completed within six months, and in any case, not more than one year, from the date of receipt of complaint.
(3) Trial in any case filed by Lokpal should be completed within one year. Adjournments should be granted in rarest circumstances.

I believe this is something that should not be restricted to corruption cases alone. I would recommend this time limit section to be added in cases of all nature; as far as possible.

It's not easy but we have to solve India's court paucity. Currently our courts work from 11.00 am to 05.00 pm (6 hours). Why not make them run from 08.00 am to 08.00 pm? (12 hours).

(3) Can Lokpal bring down corruption?

Once Lokpal is in place, will we continue to drive bikes without helmets, and escape 500 rupee bills by a 50 rupee bribe? Will we continue making black money by doing undervalued land dealings? Will we continue building buildings without adequate permissions? Will we continue bribing government officers to process a file faster?

Think of the different forms of corruption that is taking place in our country. In most cases, you pay bribes because you have something to hide. You pay bribes because you may not have satisfied all the legal requirements that you are supposed to follow. You pay bribes to motivate officers.

In cases where officials/politicians demand bribes to get something done, you already have someone called vigilance. How many are making use of that body? The difference made when vigilance is brought under Lokpal is peripheral.

India Against Corruption website says 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. Currently, don't courts do that?

Financial penalty on guilty officers to be given as compensation to the complainant and recovery of stolen money [instead of a limited fine] are amendments that we will have to make in our constitution for Lokpal. Though I do not back Lokpal, these amendments (which will apply to Judicial courts too) SHOULD be brought in. I express my gratitude to Anna and his team for putting pressure on government to bring this much needed amendment. If Lokpal ever manages to become a hit, then it will be because of this amendment.

There are many more good suggestions in the Jan Lokpal bill that Anna has put forward; like random selection of benches using computers, removal of restrictions that demand preapproval from the government to prosecute public servants & ministers, mandatory property statements from Public Servants, etc. Let's incorporate those great suggestions into our current system -- a system which we are very proud of -- and thus make it better; than by appointing an autocrat to control democratically elected leaders. 


prajith said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
prajith said...

Now that Supreme Court has quashed the allocation of 122 licences, I suppose you may now agree with the opinion of CAG.
Also CAG based his estimate not only on 3G prices but also on the fact that one company (a late entrant) offered around Rs 7000 crores for spectrum (but they were not given spectrum because the Gov. followed First come First serve policy). Again one more fact- One of the companies which got spectrum at throw away price resold 75% of its share to a Foreign company for over Rs 7000 crores just after 6 months.
CAG opinion is based on hard facts, not on fantasies

vivekstanley said...


The Supreme Court canceled the 122 odd licenses because they were given unfairly and non transparently. That does not mean that CAG's assumption of '2G is equivalent to 3G' is correct; precisely because:
1) 3G is 4 times more efficient than 2G.
2) 2G was not limited to 3 players per circle; unlike 3G.

Prajith, in no place did I assume that everything that CAG finds is wrong.

I said, "the option for government to reject whole or part of recommendations by CAG should be kept open. That's because CAG considers only receipts and expenditure; not upliftment that happens to people of a nation when government distributes spectrum at low prices. Once CAG is clubbed with Lokpal, its recommendations have to be followed."

I was pitching for a condition where government can counter or reject CAG's recommendations wholly or partly, provided government properly explains the reason for rejection of a recommendation.


Yes, by 2008, the demand for spectrum was so high; so high that Raja's tweeked first come first serve policy could not handled the demand fairly. But then, don't forget that this high demand was created by government's inaction. Government did not allot any spectrum to any operators between 2006 & 2008.

In such a situation, the government should have either not changed NDA's first cone first sreve policy or should have auctioned the spectrum; with a larger bracket of say 10 players per circle instead of 3. Three players per circle is just not enough competition. Being able to communicate at cheap rates is more important than government making money!