The Jan Lokpal Bill (Citizen’s ombudsman Bill) is a draft anti-corruption bill drawn up by prominent civil society activists seeking the appointment of a Jan Lokpal, an independent body that would investigate corruption cases, complete the investigation within a year and envisages trial in the case getting over in the next one year.
Drafted by Justice Santosh Hegde (former Supreme Court Judge and former Lokayukta of Karnataka), Prashant Bhushan(Supreme Court Lawyer) and Arvind Kejriwal (RTI activist), the draft Bill envisages a system where a corrupt person found guilty would go to jail within two years of the complaint being made and his ill-gotten wealth being confiscated. It also seeks power to the Jan Lokpal to prosecute politicians and bureaucrats without government permission.
Retired IPS officer Kiran Bedi and other known people like Swami Agnivesh, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Anna Hazare and Mallika Sarabhai are also part of the movement, called India Against Corruption.
Its website describes the movement as “An expression of collective anger of people of India against corruption. We have all come together to force/request/persuade/pressurize the Government to enact the Jan Lokpal Bill. We feel that if this Bill were enacted it would create an effective deterrence against corruption.“
A look at the salient features of Jan Lokpal Bill:
1. An institution called LOKPAL at the centre and LOKAYUKTA in each state will be set up
2. Like Supreme Court and Election Commission, they will be completely independent of the governments. No minister or bureaucrat will be able to influence their investigations.
3. Cases against corrupt people will not linger on for years anymore: Investigations in any case will have to be completed in one year. Trial should be completed in next one year so that the corrupt politician, officer or judge is sent to jail within two years.
4. The loss that a corrupt person caused to the government will be recovered at the time of conviction.
5. How will it help a common citizen: 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.
6. So, you could approach Lokpal if your ration card or passport or voter card is not being made or if police is not registering your case or any other work is not being done in prescribed time. Lokpal will have to get it done in a month’s time. You could also report any case of corruption to Lokpal like ration being siphoned off, poor quality roads constructed or panchayat funds being siphoned off. Lokpal will have to complete its investigations in a year, trial will be over in next one year and the guilty will go to jail within two years.
7. But won’t the government appoint corrupt and weak people as Lokpal members? That won’t be possible because its members will be selected by judges, citizens and constitutional authorities and not by politicians, through a completely transparent and participatory process.
8. What if some officer in Lokpal becomes corrupt? The entire functioning of Lokpal/ Lokayukta will be completely transparent. Any complaint against any officer of Lokpal shall be investigated and the officer dismissed within two months.
9. What will happen to existing anti-corruption agencies? CVC, departmental vigilance and anti-corruption branch of CBI will be merged into Lokpal. Lokpal will have complete powers and machinery to independently investigate and prosecute any officer, judge or politician.
10. It will be the duty of the Lokpal to provide protection to those who are being victimized for raising their voice against corruption.
Anna Hazare, anti-corruption crusader, went on a fast-unto-death in April, demanding that this Bill, drafted by the civil society, be adopted. Four days into his fast, the government agreed to set up a joint committee with an equal number of members from the government and civil society side to draft the Lokpal Bill together. The two sides met several times but could not agree on fundamental elements like including the PM under the purview of the Lokpal. Eventually, both sides drafted their own version of the Bill.
The government has introduced its version in Parliament in this session. Team Anna is up in arms and calls the government version the “Joke Pal Bill“.
A detailed comparison of differences between Jan Lokpal Bill and Government’s Draft
Note: Comparision SlideShow uploaded by India Against Corruption.
Issue : Prime Minister
Jan Lokpal Bill says – Prime Minister can be investigated with permission of seven member Lokpal bench.
Government’s Lokpal Bill says - Prime Minister can be investigated by Lokpal after she/he vacates office.
Issue : Judiciary
Jan Lokpal Bill says - Judiciary be investigated, though high level members may be investigated only with permission of a seven member Lokpal bench.
Government’s Lokpal Bill says - Judiciary is exempt and will be covered by a separate “judicial accountability bill”.
Issue : Conduct of MPs
Jan Lokpal Bill says – MPs be investigated with permission of seven member Lokpal bench.
Government’s Lokpal Bill says - MPs can be investigated, but their conduct within Parliament, such as voting, cannot be investigated.
Issue : Lower bureaucracy
Jan Lokpal Bill says - All public servants would be included.
Government’s Lokpal Bill says - Only senior officers (Group A) will be covered.
Issue : Anti-Corruption wing of CBI
Jan Lokpal Bill says - The Anti-corruption wing of the CBI will be merged into the Lokpal.
Government’s Lokpal Bill says - The Anti-corruption wing of the CBI not be merged into the Lokpal.
Issue : Removal of Lokpal members and Chair
Jan Lokpal Bill says - Any person can bring a complaint to the Supreme Court, who can then recommend removal of any member to the President.
Government’s Lokpal Bill says - Any “aggrieved party” can raise a complaint to the President, who will refer the matter to the CJI.
Issue : Removal of Lokpal staff and officers
Jan Lokpal Bill says - Complaints against Lokpal staff will be handled by independent boards set-up in each state, composed of retired bureaucrats, judges, and civil society members.
Government’s Lokpal Bill says - Lokpal will conduct inquiries into its own behavior.
Issue : Lokayukta
Jan Lokpal Bill says - Lokayukta and other local/state anti-corruption agency would remain in place.
Government’s Lokpal Bill says - All state anti-corruption agencies would be closed and responsibilities taken over by centralized Lokpal.
Issue : Whistleblower protection
Jan Lokpal Bill says - Whistleblowers are protected by Lokpal.
Government’s Lokpal Bill says - No protection granted to whistleblowers by Lokpal.
Issue : Punishment for corruption
Jan Lokpal Bill says - Lokpal can either directly impose penalties, or refer the matter to the courts. Penalties can include removal from office, imprisonment, and recovery of assets from those who benefited from the corruption.
Government’s Lokpal Bill says - Lokpal can only refer matters to the courts, not take any direct punitive actions. Penalties remain equivalent to those in current law.
Issue : Investigatory powers
Jan Lokpal Bill says - Lokpal can obtain wiretaps ( to make a connection to a telegraph or telephone wire in order to obtain information secretly), issue rogatory letters, and recruit investigating officers. Cannot issue contempt orders.
Government’s Lokpal Bill says - Lokpal can issue contempt orders, and has the ability to punish those in contempt. No authority to obtain wiretaps, issue rogatory letters, or recruit investigating officers.
Issue : False, frivolous and vexatious complaints
Jan Lokpal Bill says - Lokpal can issue fines for frivolous complaints (including frivolous complaints against Lokpal itself), with a maximum penalty of Rs 1 lakh.
Government’s Lokpal Bill says - Court system will handle matters of frivolous complaints. Courts can give 2-5 years imprisonment and fines of Rs 25,000 to 2 lakh.
Issue : NGOs
Jan Lokpal Bill says - NGOs not within the scope due to their role in exposing corruption.
Government’s Lokpal Bill says - NGOs are within the scope and can be investigated.
Anna Hazare declared that he would begin another fast in Delhi on August 16. Hours before he was to begin his hunger strike, the Delhi Police detained and later arrested him. There are widespread protests all over the country against his arrest.
The website of the India Against Corruption movement calls the Lokpal Bill of the government an “eyewash” and has on it a critique of that government Bill.
Post the massive support to Anna Hazare‘s movement, several of the MPs across party lines have come out in support to the Jan Lokpal Bill. Most notable names are Congress MPs from Maharashtra Priya Dutt and Datta Meghe. Datta Meghe also demanded that his party spokesperson Manish Tiwari should apologize to Anna Hazare for his uncharitable comments.
This support started coming as over 150 MPs and Ministers from different states were forced to remain confined to their houses as Anna supporters protested outside their houses. Protests were also seen outside the residence of Sheila Dixit CM of Delhi, Kapil Sibal, Pranab Mukherjee amongst others.
BJP MP Varun Gandhi is introducing Jan Lokpal Bill as a private member’s bill in the parliament.
As per the reports, Anna Hazare‘s fast was successful in mobilizing the support of thousands in the virtual world of social media. On Independence Day, Anna had over five lakh mentions through status updates and comments across top social networking sites, including Facebook and Twitter in the country. Two days later, the number had shot up to 9 million.On YouTube, over 40,000 people watched the video shot by Kiran Bedi inside Tihar Jail in which Anna has addressed his supporters. Facebook has 542 fan pages by Anna‘s name.