Friday, April 8, 2011

Jan Lok Pal – Caveat Emptor « Reality Check India


Reality Check India

Jan Lok Pal – Caveat Emptor


Jan Lok Pal

It pains me to see thousands of young and impressionable Indians being sold snake oil.

It is important to separate the two issues here :

  1. The Draft Jan Lokpal Bill itself.
  2. The voluntary assembly of Indians unaffiliated to any political outfit all outraged by high corruption.

The second point first. Such voluntary and spontaneous assembly of Indians is something to be proud of. This is a great event for sure.  I have highest respect for Anna Hazare which makes this post a bit difficult to write.

The real purpose of this blog post.

Top 5 reasons why I think the Draft Jan Lokpal Bill is the most hare brained piece of document ever produced.

5.   Comparison with Hong Kong ombudsman bill is incorrect

Many supporters of the Draft Jan Lok Pal Bill are quick to drop Hong Kong as a reference. This is invalid because the Hong Kong Ombudsman has 1) no powers of prosecution  2) only produces a report and submits to the Chief Executive (like our PM) 3) is appointed by politicians.

4.  Reckless in its promise and scopeIn other words, from dismissing a case outright to cancellation to blacklisting a firm – the Lokpal has unbridled powers.  We can only  appeal to the merciful benevolence of its members.

3.  Police and court all rolled into one

It does not matter that Lokpal members are not trained to be policemen, but I invite you to read Sec 12.

We are police. We are also court.

2.  The all important selection policy

Jan Lokpal Bill is open ended and confers unlimited powers. So it goes without saying that selecting the Lok Pal Members is the single most important task.  There are no checks and balances at all in the bill that would make it idiot member proof.   In other words, if the mainstream institutions have been compromised, there is NOTHING in the bill that would prevent the Lokpal from being compromised too. 

Let me try to make it clearer.

If Indian citizens wanted to get a compromised Lok Pal off their backs  – this is what they have to do. Study hard, do great research, win a Nobel Prize or work hard on social issues and win a Magasaysay Prize. Then and only then do you get to have a say in who the Lokpal members are.  Experience has taught us that such a system is bound to fail. Very quickly such an immune and isolated group congeal around a particular social or ideological position.

Adhoc selection criteria without rhyme or reason very prone to dilution hence ruining spirit of the bill

Here is who gets to select the Lokpal members.

5. A selection committee consisting of the following shall be set up:

a. The Chairpersons of both Houses of Parliament
b. Two senior most judges of Supreme Court
c. Two senior most Chief Justices of High Courts.
d. All Nobel Laureates of Indian Origin
e. Chairperson of National Human Rights Commission
f.Last two Magsaysay Award winners of Indian origin
g. Comptroller and Auditor General of India
h. Chief Election Commissioner
i.Bharat Ratna Award winners
j. After the first set of selection process, the outgoing members and Chairperson of

The adhoc ness of this list will immediately lead to its dilution. Why on earth should Nobel Prize Winners of Indian origin , who are citizens of other countries get to decide the Lokpal members ? What is great about the “last two” Magasaysay award winners (Kejriwal) ? Why not last ten ? Why not Padmasri Winners ?

These awards cannot possibly confer powers to put other people in jail.

1.  Unelected people cant dont put people in jail

I simply do not want unelected people to have the power to put other Indian citizens in jail.

What I want

Lokpal should be stripped of its prosecution powers, Lokpal members cannot have a police rank, Lokpal cannot blacklist or seize private property, cannot conduct judicial hearings.

Lokpal should promote the democratic way of addressing corruption.

  1. Highlighting exemplary work done by people like Subramanian Swamy. Who would incidentally be ineligible for Lokpal, Chandan Mitra (also ineligible), various government servants and professionals (all ineligible because you have to quit everything).
  2. Promoting the wisdom that politicizing corruption is the democratic way.  If you are corrupt we gonna vote your ass out.  No bullshit about “larger issue of systemic ingrained structural defects”.
  3. Be a true ombudsman like your Hong Kong counterpart. Time for me to turn it around. By all means accept complaints, investigate, gather evidence, and produce a report to the public and to the state. We bloggers will pick it up.

People wake up !! This one is a lemon.