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Jan Lokpal Bill and Parliament

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SHANTI BHUSHAN IN THE HINDU

Social activist Anna Hazare having a word with his team members Prashant Bhushan and Shanti Bhushan during the fast for Jan Lokpal Bill at Ramlila Maidan in New Delhi.

Is the Bill within the legislative competence of Parliament? Yes.

All provisions in Anna Hazare’s Jan Lokpal Bill are within the legislative competence of Parliament, including the provisions relating to Lokayuktas in the States. Some confusion is being spread in the media that Parliament cannot enact all the provisions of the Jan Lokpal Bill, particularly those relating to the Lokayuktas in the States, a law for which will have to be enacted by the State Legislatures themselves. Any constitutional jurist would confirm that there is no substance in this impression and that Parliament is fully competent to enact all the provisions of the Jan Lokpal Bill.

Parliament can enact any law if the “pith and substance” of that law is covered by any entry in the Union List or any entry in the Concurrent List. Entry 97 of the Union List is as follows: “Any other matter not enumerated in list 2 or list 3 including any tax not mentioned in either of those lists.”

The effect of this is that unless the pith and substance of the Jan Lokpal Bill falls squarely under any of the entries in the State List, Parliament cannot be denied the legislative competence to enact the provisions of the Jan Lokpal Bill. Even a student of law would tell you that the pith and substance of the Jan Lokpal Bill does not fall under any entry in the State list.

One of the entries in the Union List is entry No.14: “entering into treaties and agreements with foreign countries and implementing of treaties, agreements and conventions with foreign countries.” Article 253 provides that “Notwithstanding anything in the foregoing provisions of this Chapter, Parliament has power to make any law for the whole or any part of the territory of India for implementing any treaty, agreement or convention with any other country or countries or any decision made at any international conference, association or other body.” The effect of Article 253 is that even if the pith and substance of an Act is squarely covered by an entry in the State List, even then if the enactment is for implementing a U.N. Convention, Parliament would still be competent to enact the legislation.

As the statement of objects and reasons of the Jan Lokpal Bill would show, the object of the Jan Lokpal Bill is to implement the United Nations Convention on Corruption, which has already been ratified by India (http://www.unodc.org/unodc/en/treaties/CAC/index.html).

The definition of “public official” in the U.N. Convention includes any person holding a legislative, executive, administrative, or judicial office, whether appointed or elected. This is quite similar to the definition of “public servant” in the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, enacted by India’s Parliament, which covers all Ministers including the Prime Minister, all judges of the High Court and the Supreme Court as well as all elected Members of Parliament and State Legislatures. Incidentally, it may be mentioned that the Prevention of Corruption Act was enacted by Parliament and not by any State Legislature, even though it is applicable not only to Central government servants but also to servants of the State governments. The main object of the Jan Lokpal Bill is to set up an independent authority as required by the U.N. Convention to investigate offences of corruption by all public servants covered by the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988.

Entry 1 of the Concurrent List refers to criminal law, including all matters included in the Indian Penal Code. As bribery and corruption were covered by the Indian Penal Code, Parliament had full competence to enact the Prevention of Corruption Act.

Entry 2 of the Concurrent List relates to criminal procedure, including all matters included in the Code of Criminal Procedure. Since the investigation of bribery and corruption was included in the Code of Criminal Procedure, Parliament is fully competent to enact a law to provide for alternative methods of investigation of offences under the Prevention of Corruption Act.

Article 8 (2) of the U.N. Convention requires each state that is a party to the Convention to apply, within its own institutional and legal systems, codes or standards of conduct for the correct, honourable, and proper performance of public functions.

Article 8 (5) further requires the states to establish systems requiring public officials to make declarations regarding their outside activities, employment, investments, assets, and substantial gifts or benefits from which a conflict of interest may result with respect to their functions as public officials.

Article 8 (6) further requires the states to take disciplinary or other measures against public officials who violate the codes or standards established in accordance with the convention.

Article 12 (2) requires the taking of measures for preventing the misuse of procedures regulating private entities, including procedures regarding subsidies and licences granted by public authorities for commercial activities. It further requires the imposition of restrictions for a reasonable period of time on the professional activities of former public officials after their resignation or retirement, where such activities of employment relate directly to the functions held or supervised by those public officials during their tenure.

Article 34 of the Convention requires the states to consider corruption a relevant factor in legal proceedings to annul or rescind a contract, withdraw a concession or other similar instrument, or take any other remedial action. It would be crystal clear to any constitutional jurist that even if the Jan Lokpal Bill had not been for the purpose of implementing the U.N. Convention, all its provisions would be squarely covered by the Union List and the Concurrent List.

While one can understand the anxiety of political parties to somehow attempt to dilute the provisions of the Jan Lokpal Bill by reducing its coverage or to weaken it, they owe it to the people of India not to mislead the gullible people that Parliament is not competent to enact the provisions contained in Anna Hazare’s Jan Lokpal Bill. Even the claim that at the least the States are required to be consulted has no basis at all. The Constitution-makers had foreseen that in a federal or quasi-federal country, the States’ views had to be taken into consideration by Parliament when enacting a law. They had, therefore, provided for the Council of States and a Bill cannot be enacted by Parliament unless it is passed both in the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha. The constitution of the Rajya Sabha provides that each State elects its representatives to this House. Thus all States are represented in the Rajya Sabha. The MPs in the Rajya Sabha are there to represent the views of the states on any Bill that comes before it and there is thus an inbuilt mechanism in the Constitution itself to provide for taking into consideration the views of the States on a Bill that is being enacted by Parliament.

(Shanti Bhushan, a constitutional expert, is a former Union Law Minister and member of the Joint Drafting Committee on the Lokpal Bill.)

Origin: http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/lead/article2430078.ece?homepage=true

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Half a victory

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Abhishek Manu Singhvi, Indian politician, spea...

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VENKITESH RAMAKRISHNAN  IN THE FRONTLINE

Team Anna wins the first round, but the way ahead in the fight against corruption is full of uncertainties.

“A BATTLE has been won in the campaign for cleansing public life through the rallying of vast sections of people across the country. But a purposive piece of legislation has finally to be passed by Parliament even to rate this victory as truly meaningful. Indeed, the state of peace that has descended after the tumult is pregnant with uncertainties. Uncertainties of such dimensions that no one has a clue as to what this will ultimately deliver.” These words spoken by a key player in the negotiations between Team Anna and the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government during the tumultuous 12-day fast undertaken by Anna Hazare, which rocked the national capital and most other parts of the country, sum up the mood prevailing among individuals and groups that would play a role in the drafting and passage of a new Lokpal Bill. The government, the big and small opposition parties with representation in Parliament, Team Anna and various other institutions and bodies that have come up with suggestions on the proposed Bill, such as the Aruna Roy-led National Campaign for People’s Right to Information (NCPRI) and the Udit Raj-led Justice Party, all share these uncertainties and the lack of clarity about the future.

At the moment, of course, the prime mover is the Standing Committee of Parliament, chaired by Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi. The committee is expected to take up and initiate negotiations on the various proposals from different sides sometime in September itself. Central to these negotiations are the three points on which Parliament expressed its sense-of-the-House agreement in response to Team Anna’s demands. The sense-of-the-House resolution stated that the issues of “Citizens’ Charter, Lower Bureaucracy also to be under the Lokpal through appropriate mechanism, and establishment of Lokayuktas in the States” would be taken up by the Standing Committee. This process itself has historic dimensions because it is for the first time that the members of the Standing Committee will be discussing the provisions of an already introduced government Bill in response to a sense-of-the-House resolution suggesting incorporation of new provisions.

The mainstream political parties and Team Anna expect this process of the Standing Committee to be completed before the winter session of Parliament. On their part, both Union Finance Minister Pranab Kumar Mukherjee, who emerged as the most important player on the government side during the latter stages of the anti-corruption agitation, and Anna Hazare himself have come up with public postures that have signified a sense of caution and accommodation, which in turn is considered conducive to the smooth conduct of deliberations. In repeated comments to the media after Anna Hazare concluded his fast on August 28, Mukherjee made it clear that the government had bowed before people’s power and its genuine representative leader. Anna Hazare responded by agreeing that there was a lot more to be done peacefully to take the negotiations to the level of fruition. Asserting that “this is only half a victory”, he said he was confident that Members of Parliament would not go back on their word to provide “an effective and strong Lokpal”.

While this sense of accommodation and optimism bodes well for deliberations in the future, large sections of public opinion still harbour apprehensions as to how things will unfold. Speaking to the media immediately after Anna Hazare ended his fast, Infosys founder V. Narayana Murthy hailed the ‘in principle’ agreement of Parliament to the demands put forward by Team Anna but added that it was only the first step. “We have to go through the process of implementation and take it to success. And that is the toughest part. For implementation is the Devil.”

According to Professor Nil Rattan of the Patna-based A.N. Sinha Institute of Political Studies, the apprehensions about implementation have arisen essentially on account of the very track record of the players involved in the process. “Both sides have shown intransigence at different times. While the government has bumbled about from one mistake to another for long spells while addressing the issue, Team Anna had initially taken the obstinate position that nothing short of its version, the Jan Lokpal Bill, would do. The present atmosphere for deliberations could be arrived at only because the government rectified some of its mistakes and Team Anna was ready to come down on some of its demands like bringing the higher judiciary under the ambit of the Lokpal. What is the guarantee that this will stand? Who knows whether sections of the government will embark on some adventurist path again,” Nil Rattan told Frontline.

Indeed, the UPA’s track record in handling the early days of Anna Hazare’s August agitation is pathetic. Almost every section of the government, starting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, kept on making mistakes. Interventions by Home Minister P. Chidambaram and Telecommunications Minister Kapil Sibal made matters worse. Finally, Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi contributed his mite to the rank confusion in the ruling establishment. These mistakes were in many ways directly proportional to the rising popularity of Anna Hazare.

Undoubtedly, the biggest mistake was the imprisonment of Anna Hazare on August 16, that too in Tihar jail, where people like Suresh Kalmadi and A. Raja, who were arrested on charges of corruption, are incarcerated. Subsequently, an official spokesperson of the Congress classified Anna Hazare as a “top to bottom” corrupt person.

Interestingly, the decision to take Anna Hazare to Tihar jail was made in an apparent effort to keep him away from the crowds. The political bosses and the administrative-bureaucratic leadership, especially of the Home Ministry, had reportedly considered different options, such as placing him in a government or private guest house or moving him out to Ralegan Siddhi (his hometown in Maharashtra), but finally decided against all these, fearing that his supporters would gather in front of the guest house or at Ralegan Siddhi. Informed sources said that they finally decided to shift him to Tihar because it was thought that the jail would not be accessible to Hazare’s supporters. But what happened was the exact opposite. Crowds gathered at Tihar in big numbers, forcing the government to order his release.

In the days following his release, and during the fast undertaken by him at the Ramlila Grounds, Anna Hazare was perceived as the symbol of all that is positive in society and in many ways the one-stop solution for all social problems. Various organisations, such as sections of the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS)-led Sangh Parivar and non-governmental organisations of different hues and patterns of funding, pitched in for crowd mobilisation. Cumulatively, the impact of genuinely inspired participation and motivated organisational mobilisation resulted in massive crowds at the maidan.

Meanwhile, the government made another faulty move: it stated that Parliament cannot give up its supremacy. This when it had undermined Parliament in April by calling Team Anna to draft the Lokpal Bill and keeping the opposition parties out of the drafting committee. While this move was made by the Prime Minister, Rahul Gandhi made a facile attempt to score some brownie points through an intervention in Parliament highlighting the same supremacy-of-Parliament position.

Ultimately, it required the intervention of some youth power from the government side itself to untangle the mess that senior politicians such as Manmohan Singh, Chidambaram and Sibal had created. It was through the good offices of a young Delhi MP, Sandeep Diskshit, that the government built channels of communication with Team Anna and managed to bring about a solution. To start with, Dikshit’s intervention was followed by an appeal from Manmohan Singh to Anna Hazare to withdraw the fast. He made this appeal even while crediting Anna Hazare with valid slogans representing the people’s aspirations.

However, in the euphoria created by this collection of crowds day after day, shrill voices questioning the very legitimacy of political processes and leaderships were heard from the Ramlila podium – from Team Anna leaders including Anna Hazare, Kiran Bedi and Arvind Kejriwal, and supporters such as the actor Om Puri. The campaign was such that it sought to raise visions of an apolitical leadership replacing politics in the country. Voices like those of the social activist Swami Agnivesh, which emphasised the need to accord validity to political leaderships and elected representatives, were fiercely criticised by the volunteers of Team Anna and by sections of the crowd. Agnivesh’s comment that Hazare ought to have responded positively to Manmohan Singh’s appeal was targeted for special vitriolic treatment by many of Team Anna’s supporters.

Despite this, the government persisted with its efforts at negotiation. It was in this process that Pranab Mukherjee’s role came to the fore, even though Chidambaram and Kapil Sibal continued to argue that a tough line would ultimately compel Team Anna to compromise. This tussle on strategy reflected in a different manner within Team Anna too. Though voices like those of Swami Agnivesh had been sidelined, there also developed an impression that Kejriwal and Kiran Bedi were pushing things to the brink. A group within Team Anna, including senior lawyer Prashant Bhushan, took the lead in meeting a number of political leaders, particularly in the opposition BJP and the Left. These initiatives were supplemented by the Mukherjee-led negotiations.

Gradually, sections of Team Anna that had raised a rant against the political class as a whole had to listen to the less aggressive sections. And, it was this that finally led to the discussion of Anna’s demands in Parliament and the final passage of the resolution.

Notably, when Anna Hazare’s fast was withdrawn on August 28 following the passage of the resolution, Kejriwal made it a point to underline the fact that at no point of time had Team Anna sought to denigrate the entire political class as corrupt. While this was sought to be presented as a clarification, many observers perceived the effect of a corrective reverse pressure in this statement.

The passage of the resolution in Parliament and the acknowledgement of Anna’s agitation methods by parliamentarians have evoked high praise, especially from sections of the media, some of whom have described the agitation as the most phenomenal people’s movement to have happened in the history of independent India. In fact, some commentators have even gone to the extent of suggesting that there could be a classification of national politics as pre-Anna and post-Anna phases.

While it is true that the agitation and the fast touched an emotive chord in large sections of the people, including the middle class which has never participated actively in political initiatives, the fact remains that many other movements, ranging from the struggle for land reforms to the empowerment of Dalits, have had more lasting historical impact on Indian society.

Professor Sudhir Panwar, an Uttar Pradesh-based social activist associated with the Kisan Jagriti Manch, who supported the Anna Hazare agitation as a significant effort to initiate a new democratic discourse in the country’s political system, also pointed out that the increased participation of the middle class had helped get enhanced media attention to the movement compared with other grass-roots initiatives such as those of farmers and agricultural workers.

“The fact is the issue of corruption, especially corruption by the political class, is so pervasive and the fight against it has such widespread resonance that even those who have never thought of the country and its people in a larger sense joined in,” he said.

Panwar pointed out that the middle class, which had assiduously kept away from politics and refused to respond to phenomenal political developments such as the demolition of the Babri Masjid and the Gujarat riots of 2002, was triggered into action on political and other forms of corruption also because of the global economic crisis and its impact on day-to-day life.

Panwar emphasised that the leaders of Team Anna should use this opportunity to broadbase the movement with a larger understanding of other social issues and an earnest incorporation of other social movements. “Only then will this have a lasting impact,” he stated.

Naturally, this would involve adopting a more open approach to issues such as the demands of Dalits and backward classes in relation to the Lokpal and looking at broader issues such as the impact of neoliberal policies. Team Anna has announced its resolve to continue struggles in new areas such as electoral reforms, which will include the right to recall and the right to reject legislators. It has also stated that it will strive for decentralisation of power through the greater empowerment of gram sabhas and mohalla sabhas.

A one-line overview of the national political situation in the context of the agitation and the related developments was provided by Pranab Mukherjee when he said, “We are at a crossroads.” It was with this phrase that Mukherjee began his speech marking the beginning of the August 27 debate in Parliament on the Lokpal Bill.

Clearly, as the statement implies, it is time to move with caution to enhance the democratic content of the nation and its institutions and systems. It is a message that applies equally to the largely discredited and beleaguered political class as also to the new civil society players who have had a modicum of success in initiating a corrective process.

And exactly because of this success, Team Anna needs to be extra cautious in what it preaches and practises. For, the hallucination among some of its leaders that India is Anna and Anna is India militates against the very concept of democratic discourse.

Teaching a hard lesson

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SUDIPTO MUNDLE in TOI

Shehla Masood was killed in Bhopal recently, yet another RTI activist who lost her life in the battle against corruption. The Lokayukta report has brought down the chief minister in Karnataka. A high court judge is being impeached in Parliament. The Comptroller and Auditor General and the Supreme Court are in hot pursuit of mega scams. The CBI has charge-sheeted and locked up top executive honchos, MPs, even a cabinet minister. India is at war against corruption.

Now we have Team Anna’s much celebrated victory. His hunger strike and arrest galvanised a whole nation. Nothing like this had been seen since the freedom movement led by Gandhi, except perhaps the JP movement. Cong-ress leaders were clearly shocked. As the rallies swelled and Team Anna grew more stubborn, the party swung from hard line to soft line to hard line again.

Finally, it was Prime Minister Manmohan Singh – much vilified in recent times even by his well-wishers for neither leading nor resigning, and presiding over a corrupt regime – who did the right thing. At his instance, alternative proposals for the Lokpal Bill were discussed in Parliament, and an all-party resolution passed that supports the three key issues raised by Team Anna. He then reached out to Anna, requesting him to withdraw his fast.

Anna responded by congratulating Parliament and breaking his 12-day fast while the nation rejoiced and heaved a collective sigh of relief. The prime minister’s approach preserved the authority of Parliament, yet ensured that Parliament was responsive to a popular non-violent movement. Between Anna and him, they have led the people and the Parliament of India to the finest moment of our democracy as the world has watched and applauded us.

The Parliament resolution is a giant leap for Indian democracy, but only one big step in fighting corruption. The hard work starts now. As the standing committee gets down to the nitty-gritty of drafting the revised Lokpal Bill, it is a good time to look at the insights on corruption containment offered by a cross-over subject called Law and Economics.

The organising theme underlying this approach is the pleasure-pain calculus attributed to philosopher Jeremy Bentham. The idea that all human behaviour is driven by this calculus is controversial. But it seems reasonable to suggest that crimes like corruption are indeed driven by the criminal’s perception of potential gain and the loss if caught: pleasure and pain. Much insight on how to contain corruption derives from this simple principle. However, corruption takes many forms and no matter how clever a policy, the criminal mind can be equally clever. Also, beyond a point, the costs of further reducing corruption could exceed the loss from corruption. Hence, corruption can be contained, possibly minimised, but not entirely eliminated. With this caveat, the following broad proposals can be made.

First, there is the widespread phenomenon of citizens having to pay a bribe to get what they are entitled to by right, e.g., timely delivery of pensions, ration cards, passports, etc or the timely restoration of power, phone lines, water supply, and so on. In such cases, the bribe payer is actually a victim of extortion. In a recent paper, economist Kaushik Basu has proposed that acts of bribe-giving in such cases of ‘harassment corruption’ should not be considered a crime, as at present. Instead, the punishment for the bribe seeker should be significantly enhanced. Such an amendment of the relevant law could vastly reduce ‘harassment corruption’ because the potential extortionist would be deterred by his knowledge that bribe-givers are likely to blow the whistle after getting their job done.

For other forms of major corruption, the pleasure-pain calculus has generated three basic approaches for containment: high civil service pay to moderate the lure of illegal gratification; laws prescribing very harsh punishment and/or strong law enforcement to enhance the probability and expected pain from being caught, compared to the potential gain; and strong competitive structures with transparent non-discretionary rules to minimise the opportunities for gain from bribe-driven decisions. International evidence reveals two cases of high civil service pay and low levels of corruption, Singapore and Hong Kong. However, both these places also have strong laws against corruption, strict enforcement and open, competitive market structures. Hence, the individual effects of each of the three approaches cannot be disentangled in either of these cases.

Evidence from other countries indicates that strong laws, strict enforcement and competitive structures each individually and significantly contribute to curbing corruption. In most developing countries, including India, poor enforcement of laws is the norm. Turning that around would be very costly in resources and a great administrative challenge. By comparison, enacting strong laws or introducing reforms to strengthen competitiveness are relatively costless and administratively less challenging.

These should be our strategic priorities in fighting corruption. The former requires a revised Lokpal Bill that provides for very stiff punishment of corruption. The latter requires other urgent reforms to strengthen competitiveness through transparent, non-discretionary regulations that are not unduly restrictive. While these should be our priorities, enforcement too has to be strengthened to the extent our fiscal and administrative capacities permit.

The writer is emeritus professor at the National Institute of Public Finance & Policy, New Delhi.

COURTESY: THE TIMES OF INDIA

Significant victory

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Manmohan Singh, current prime minister of India.

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Parliament’s unanimous adoption of a resolution agreeing “in principle” with Team Anna’s position on the three sticking points that prolonged the standoff on the Lokpal legislation is a triumph for the anti-corruption mood in the country — and for the Gandhian technique of non-violent mass agitation on issues of vital concern to the people. Anna Hazare and his team deserve full credit for recognising and riding this popular mood, which showed plenty of signs of becoming a wave; for giving concrete shape to the inchoate aspirations of the movement against corruption through the provisions of the Jan Lokpal Bill; and for working out a strategy and tactics that refused to compromise on the core issues but knew when to raise the stakes and when to settle. As for the political players, the major opposition parties did well to recognise the soundness of the core demands of Team Anna and keep up the pressure on the government. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the politically savvy elements in the United Progressive Alliance regime can also take some credit for the way they finally acted to resolve this crisis.

What is clear to everyone — except the unreconstructed elements within the political system who have long been opposed to a strong, independent, and effective statutory authority to go after corruption at all levels — is that the Lokpal Bill that was introduced in Parliament by the government and is now before a Standing Committee lies thoroughly discredited. The government must not be guided by those in its ranks who advocate some kind of rearguard action in committee or on the floor of the House to go back on commitments made. The fact is that in sum, that is, in the parliamentary resolution and during the preceding rounds of discussion with Team Anna, the government conceded the following key demands. In addition to Ministers, Members of Parliament (subject to Article 105 of the Constitution), and Group ‘A’ officers, the Prime Minister at one end and the lower bureaucracy at the other will be brought under the jurisdiction of the Lokpal. Secondly, under the same statute, strong and effective Lokayuktas on the same model as the Lokpal will be established in all States. Team Anna contends that no constitutional problem is involved here since the Lokpal legislation deals with substantive and procedural criminal law, which is covered by Entries 1 and 2 of the Concurrent List in the Constitution. The bottom-line is that it makes no sense to have a strong and effective Lokpal to investigate and prosecute central public servants for corruption while having defunct or no Lokayuktas in States. Thirdly, the Lokpal legislation will provide for a grievance redressal system, requiring all public authorities to prepare a citizen’s charter and make commitments to be met within a specified time frame. Constitutionally speaking, these arrangements are covered by Entry 8 of the Concurrent List dealing with actionable wrongs. Whether the Lokpal or another authority established under the same law will oversee this grievance redressal system remains an open question. For its part, Team Anna has agreed that judges need not come under the Lokpal provided a credible and independent Judicial Conduct Commission, free from conflict of interest and empowered to investigate and prosecute charges of corruption against judges, is established by law. Unfortunately, the contentious issue of a selection committee for the Lokpal could not be resolved. But considering that virtually everyone outside the UPA seems opposed to the official Lokpal Bill’s provision that the government will nominate five of the nine members of the selection committee, this can probably be regarded as a dead letter.

There are some excellent provisions in the Jan Lokpal Bill that have gone mostly unnoticed. For instance, Section 6(o) provides that the Lokpal can recommend the cancellation or modification of a lease, licence, permission, contract or agreement obtained from a public authority by corrupt means; if the public authority rejects the recommendation, the Lokpal can “approach [the] appropriate High Court for seeking appropriate directions to be given to the public authority.” It can also press for the blacklisting of those involved in acts of corruption. Then there is Section 31(1), which stipulates that “no government official shall be eligible to take up jobs, assignments, consultancies, etc. with any person, company, or organisation that he had dealt with in his official capacity.” Section 31(2) provides that “all contracts, public-private partnerships, transfer by way of sale, lease, and any form of largesse by any public authority shall be done with complete transparency and by calling for public tender/auction/bids unless it is an emergency measure or where it is not possible to do so for reasons to be recorded in writing.” And Section 31(3) requires that “all contracts, agreements or MOUs known by any name related to transfer of natural resources, including land and mines to any private entity by any method like public-private partnerships, sale, lease or any form of largesse by any public authority shall be put on the website within a week of being signed.”

In appraising what has happened over the past fortnight, a red herring needs to be got out of the way — the idea of the ‘supremacy of Parliament‘ versus everyone who comes up against it. Parliamentarians who assert this need to learn their Constitution. In India, unlike Britain, Parliament is not supreme; the Constitution is. Nor is law-making “the sole prerogative” of Parliament. The significant victory of the anti-corruption campaigners gives political India a rare opportunity to translate fine anti-corruption sentiments into a potent law that can be a game-changer. The challenge before the people of India is to ensure, by keeping up the pressure, that in the tricky business of law making in committee and on the floor of the Houses of Parliament a potentially powerful instrument is not blunted.

COURTESY: THE HINDU

Objection, your honour

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Satya Prakash in the HINDUSTAN TIMES

As Justice Soumitra Sen of the Calcutta High Court faces impeachment proceedings, the focus is back on corruption in the Indian judiciary, often accused of opposing measures to introduce transparency and accountability in an institution that also judges the works of the Legislature and the Executive.

During the debate on the resolution in the Rajya Sabha to remove Justice Sen, cutting across party lines, MPs attacked the judiciary for corruption, lack of accountability and the collegium system of appointments, in which the executive hardly has any role to play. No wonder, in his farewell speech, Justice VS Sirpurkar of the Supreme Court described the statements against the judiciary as “indigestible”.

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Should the Judiciary be under Lokpal?
Gandhian Anna Hazare, who had been on an indefinite fast since August 16 to demand a strong Lokpal (anti-corruption ombudsman), first demanded that the judiciary be brought under the Lokpal. However, team Anna is now said to have agreed to keep the judiciary out of the purview of the Lokpal if the government simultaneously brings the Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill with strong provisions to deal with judicial corruption.

“Judiciary can’t be covered by this (proposed) Lokpal. It should be covered by another alternative mechanism. We call it the National Judicial Commission,” leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley said on August 18, during the debate on Sen’s impeachment.
According to former Chief Justice of India PN Bhagwati, bringing the judiciary under the Lokpal would “seriously” affect its independence. Only a “specialised agency” should be entrusted to ensure accountability in the judiciary, whose autonomy could be compromised if brought under the Lokpal, Bhagwati said in an open letter to Hazare.

The Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill, 2010
The UPA government introduced the Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill in the Lok Sabha on December 1, 2010. It proposes to lay down judicial standards, provide for the accountability of judges, and requires them to declare their assets and liabilities, and also that of their spouse and children.

The Bill requires judges to practise universally accepted values of judicial life, such as prohibition on close association with individual members of the Bar who practise in the same court as the judge and allowing family members who are members of the Bar to use the judge’s residence for professional work.

Law Commission Vice Chairman KTS Tulsi terms it a historic step, saying, “For the first time judges’ conduct is being defined by a statute.”
The proposed law is to replace the Judges (Inquiry) Act, 1968 that lays down procedure for removal of the Supreme Court and high court judges. But most importantly, it empowers the common man to file complaints against judges of the high courts and the Supreme Court.
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The numbers game
Under the present system provided for in the Judges (Inquiry) Act, 1968, the process for removal of a judge can be initiated through a resolution either by 100 Lok Sabha members or 50 Rajya Sabha members.

After the MPs submit a duly signed motion to the Lok Sabha speaker or Rajya Sabha Chairman, the presiding officer constitutes a three-member committee to probe the allegations and determine if it is a fit case for initiating the impeachment process.

If the panel indicts the judge, the resolution for removal has to be passed by two-thirds majority in both Houses in the same session. The resolution is then sent to the President, who orders removal of the judge. The judge is given an opportunity to defend him/her.

While retaining the reference procedure, the Bill proposes to introduce a complaint procedure to empower the aam admi to file complaints against judges of the high courts and the Supreme Court.

It seeks to establish two authorities — a National Judicial Oversight Committee and a Scrutiny Panel — to investigate complaints against judges.

The Oversight Committee will comprise a retired Chief Justice of India as the chairperson, a judge of the Supreme Court nominated by the sitting Chief Justice of India, a Chief Justice of the High Court, the Attorney General for India, and an eminent person appointed by the President. The scrutiny panel shall comprise a former Chief Justice and two sitting judges of that court.

A Parliamentary panel on Law and justice is said to have recommended inclusion of one MP each from the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha in the Oversight Committee.  Initial complaints will be made to the Oversight Committee, and they will be referred to the scrutiny panel constituted in the Supreme Court and in every High Court.

If the scrutiny panel feels there are sufficient grounds for proceeding against the judge, it shall report on its findings to the Oversight Committee.

When the panel finds that the complaint is frivolous, or that there not sufficient grounds for inquiring against into the complaint, it shall submit a report to the Oversight Committee giving its findings for not proceeding with the complaint.

If the scrutiny panel recommends investigation into a complaint against a judge, the Oversight Committee will constitute an investigation committee to probe into the complaint. The probe panel will comprise three members. It will frame definite charges against the judge and shall communicate the same to the judge, who shall be given an opportunity to present the case, but if the judge chooses not to be heard, the proceedings may be heard without him present.

The Removal of a judge
If the Oversight Committee feels that the charges proved against the judge merit his/her removal, it shall request the judge to resign voluntarily, and if the judge fails to do so, it shall advise the president to proceed with the removal of the judge. In such a case, the President shall refer the matter to Parliament, where the rest of the procedure is the same as the one in the case of a motion moved by MPs.

The Bill exempts documents and records of proceedings related to a complaint from the purview of the RTI Act, 2005 but the reports of the investigation committee and the order of the Oversight Committee can be made public. The tainted judges gallery

Why The Collegium stays
Under Article 124(2) and Article 217(1) of the Constitution, a judge of Supreme Court/High Court has to be appointed by the President after “consultation” with the Chief Justice of India (CJI). The government was not bound by the CJI’s recommendation.
But in 1993, the Supreme Court introduced the collegium system, taking over primacy in appointments to higher judiciary. A nine-judge Constitution Bench in 1998 ruled that “consultation” must be effective and the chief justice’s
opinion shall have primacy. Now India is the only nation in the world where judges appoint judges. In 2008, the Law Commission favoured restoration of pre-1993 position. Despite the UPA government criticising the collegium system, the Bill does not propose to change it.

Post-retirement carrots
During his speech on Sen’s impeachment, Jaitley said: “The desire of a job after retirement is now becoming a serious threat to judicial independence.”

Tulsi also described it as a menace. “I agree with Jaitley that judges should not be given post-retirement jobs. If a statute requires a judicial person, a sitting judge can be appointed.”

The way forward
Prevention is better than cure. What is needed is a system that ensures only an honest person becomes a judge. If that happens, the occasion for removal of a judge may not arise.  Also, the collegium system must go, says former law minister Ram Jethmalani. “Setting up a National Judicial Commission is the only solution. The Commission must have the powers to appoint, transfer and remove judges,” he said.
He, however, said: “It should be a broad-based body comprising a government representative, the leader of the opposition and representatives of the judiciary, organised Bar, academic world and the world of social sciences.”

 http://www.hindustantimes.com/Objection-your-honour/H1-Article1-738669.aspx
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Ministers, MPs face ‘aam aadmi’ protest

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People protesting for Jan-Lokpal Bill supporting Anna Hazare

Top ministers, Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit and some MPs on Monday faced protests on the issue of the Lokpal Bill after people gathered in front of their houses here following a call by Anna Hazare.

People protested in front of the residences of Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, HRD Minister Kapil Sibal, Ms. Dikshit and some MPs.

The first to face the ire of people was Mr. Sibal. Around 40 protesters staged a protest outside his Teen Murti residence seeking his support for the Jan Lokpal Bill.

The protests came following Mr. Hazare’s call to stage demonstrations outside the residences of ministers and MPs to ask them their stand on the Lokpal bill.

“We have come here to request Sibal to support the Jan Lokpal Bill. This is a good bill and everybody should support it,” a protester outside Sibal’s Teen Murti residence said.

On Sunday evening also several people had gathered outside the residence of Mr. Sibal and shouted slogans against him. They left before the police could come to the spot.

People also gathered outside the Talkatora residence of Mr. Mukherjee, who was member of the joint drafting committee on Lokpal Bill along with Mr. Sibal, and shouted slogans against the government.

Police was deployed outside their residences.

Protesters also staged demonstrations outside Dikshit’s Motilal Nehru Road residence. They shouted slogans against the Chief Minister and also mentioned the CAG report on Commonwealth Games.

A protest was also held outside BJP MP Ashok Argal’s residence.

COURTESY: THE HINDU

Civil society leaders behaving like legislators: Pranab

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Pranab Mukherjee, Indian politician, current F...

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Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee on Sunday said that the leaders of the civil society movement for a Lokpal Bill have given an impression as if they have become legislators.

“The way the civil society movement is continuing in the country, it gives an impression that the leaders have become legislators,” Mukherjee said.

Speaking at the convocation of the Bengal Engineering and Science University in Shibpur in Howrah district, Mukherjee said he had been asked during a programme in Hanoi why the Indian government was giving so much importance to the civil society movement in the country.

“I told them that Indian democracy is not stagnant. It is a multi-faceted democracy. We have to consider opinions of different people and organisations. It is a new kind of process. We have to listen to them,” Mukherjee said.

There are thousands of opinions on any important issue which have to be heard, the Finance Minister said.

Speaking at the Bengal Engineering and Science University in Shibpur in Howrah district, Mukherjee said he had been asked during a programme in Hanoi why the Indian government was giving so much importance to the civil society movement in the country.

“I told them that Indian democracy is not stagnant. It is multi-faceted. We have to consider opinions of different people and organisations. It is a new kind of process. We have to listen to them,” Mukherjee said.

He said, “Pre-legislation consultation will not have to be necessarily confined to civil servants and political executives. If larger sections of society want to participate in it in a disciplined and well-established format, we can go for it. There may be failures, there may be successes but the point is Indian democratic system is not stagnant. It is expressing itself in various formats.”

There are thousands of opinions on any important issue which have to be heard, the Finance Minister said.

COURTESY: INDIAN EXPRESS