Saturday, December 24, 2011

Confusion heaped upon confusion

Have you read the Lokpal Bill, 2011 ? It sets out such a tedious, cumbersome procedure that one would think the intention is to make certain that a complaint of corruption against a public servant gets lost in the maze ! Here's a step-by-step guide :

If there is a complaint of corruption against a public servant, the Lokpal will first decide whether to proceed in the matter or close it.That's step number one.

If it decides to proceed in the matter, it will order a preliminary inquiry to decide whether there exists a prima facie case to proceed in the matter.That's step number two. What is the difference between the first step and the second? Both require the Lokpal to "decide" whether to "proceed" in the matter. I too am trying to figure that out.

If the complaint is against a government servant (group A, B, C and D), the Lokpal will refer the matter  to the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) which will carry out the preliminary inquiry.The preliminary inquiry is to be concluded in 90 days( 3 months), and this period may be extended by another 90 days.

For all other public servants, the preliminary inquiry will be conducted by the Lokpal's Inquiry Wing.

Or by the CBI.
Or by any other agency.
Enough confusion , right ?

After making its preliminary inquiry, the CVC will submit its report to the Lokpal, but only for Group A and B government servants. That's step number three.

What happens to the report of the CVC's preliminary inquiry in respect of Group C and D government servants? On these reports, action will be taken by the CVC as per the CVC Act. 

As for the preliminary inquiry in respect of public servants other than government servants, the Lokpal's Inquiry Wing, or the CBI, or any other agency, will complete the inquiry within 60 days and submit its report to the Lokpal. Sixty days? Hadn't we just said preliminary inquiry to be concluded within 90 days? Obviously, the government is yet to make up its mind whether the preliminary inquiry is to be concluded within 60 days or 90 + 90 (180) days.

We are now at step four of the process. The Lokpal will consider the preliminary inquiry report, hear the public servant, and decide either to close the matter, or order disciplinary action against the public servant, or order an investigation into the matter. Who will take the disciplinary action against the public servant? The CVC. There's no time limit prescribed, by the way, for completion of action by the CVC in the cases referred to it for taking disciplinary action.

Who will carry out the investigation? The CBI or any other agency.Once the investigation has been concluded, the investigation report will be considered by the Lokpal. This brings us to step five of the process.It may decide to close the matter, or file a complaint in the Special Court, or initiate departmental proceedings against the public servant.

The complaint or the closure report will be filed in the Special Court by the Lokpal's Prosecution Wing, but disciplinary proceedings will be initiated by the "competent authority", not the Lokpal.

Interestingly, while the preliminary inquiry, the investigation and the disciplinary proceedings will be carried out by the CVC and the CBI, there is no provision in the Lokpal bill to ensure the autonomy of these organisations. So, as is the case now, both the CVC and the CBI will remain vulnerable to extraneous influences, including political pressure.

From step one to step six, do you see much of a role for the Lokpal? Is it any wonder that anti - corruption activists have described the Lokpal, as envisaged in the Lokpal bill, as a mere post office ? 

Since no measure for ensuring the autonomy of the CBI and the CVC has been proposed, the "post office" Lokpal will simply add another layer to the existing, dysfunctional anti-corruption machinery. Was this the outcome for which millions of people extended support to Anna Hazare and his team ? Is this the best the government could do after several rounds of discussions with Team Anna, examination by the Standing Committe, etc etc ?


  1. Priya, it is natural for the law makers and their aides (senior government functionaries) to do everything in their power to increase red-tape to the extent that the legislation for justice against their misdeeds become ineffective!