It hasn’t even been a week since India Gate was awash in candle light, the wax on the candles hadn’t even sputtered to stubs before the joint committee on the drafting of the Lokpal Bill was caught in several controversies.
First came the news that the co-chair of the committee, former Union law minister Shanti Bhushan and his son, also a member of the joint committee and a lawyer himself, could be embroiled in fixing judges for the Samajwadi Party. The debate on whether or not a CD that proves this allegation is authentic or not was a postscript to the first meeting of the joint committee.
Deep political opposition to the proposed Jan Lokpal version of the Bill, as articulated by Congress MP Sandeep Dikshit and echoed across party lines, came next. But perhaps the biggest challenge to a Lokpal Bill seeing the light of day is the lack of consensus among civil society activists on the shape of the Bill.
On the face of it, it is a no-brainer. If, for the last 40 years, consensus has not been built around a common draft for the Bill, it isn’t likely to now. The opportunity for pushing through the legislation, in the face of a popular demand, however, is like no other at this time. It is, therefore, tragic that a liberal consensus on the shape of the Bill is non-existent.
The Jan Lokpal Bill, as put forward by the civil society representatives, envisages a sort of a super structure administered by a Lokayukta, which would have a parallel power of investigation, prosecution and punishing cases of graft, over and above the system currently in place. Actually, an 11-member group whose authority will derive not only from the state but also from the fact that their appointment would be transparent and, therefore, afford them a moral authority in taking on cases dealing with graft.
This idea of a ‘super structure’ has been opposed rather vehemently, not so much by the political class but by civil society activists like Aruna Roy, who are also members of the National Advisory Council’s working group on an anti-graft law. Roy’s opposition principally relates to this super structure. Parallel consultation held by the National Campaign for Peoples’ Right to Information (NCPRI) has come to the conclusion that a more comprehensive system of checks and balances is required rather than a super structure of this sort. The NCPRI draft and