Monday, May 2, 2011

Effective deterrence to help fight the menace

India Against Corruption believes that only an effective Jan Lokpal Bill can help rid the country get free from the clutches of graft

Manish Sisodia

The prevailing situation in the country has been depressing for quite some time and consequently simmering discontent and anger against those, who wield power, has all along been there at the sub-surface of national conscience. People looked for an opportunity to vent their anger and agony.

Despite many vocal faces against corruption, they could not catch the imagination of public at large, as most of them lacked credibility and conviction in one way or the other. We at “India Against Corruption”, being a non-political and non-governmental entity, thought to provide a platform, where people can come and join hands against the malice, which is eating the very existence of our collective political living.

We believe there are reasons for creeping corruption in the country and we need to address them rather than pin point one individual or a group of individuals. Though I am not saying that individuals should not be punished for acts of corruption, court trials of individuals in cases of graft will not serve the larger national purpose given the penetration and quantum of cases involving unimaginable amount of money involved. We need to find out reasons for such incidences in the system. I think “deterrence” at all level including high and mighty, reforms in electoral system and de-linking investigation and prosecution of corruption cases from political masters will go long way in purging the system of the ills plaguing it.

“Deterrence” has a big role to play in fight against corruption, so a robust legal framework is required to deal with the situation. One such could be provided by enacting the “Jan Lokpal Bill”, which India Against Corruption has drafted.

No doubt there exist varieties of laws to deal with graft cases, but most of them lack the required bite to actually nail alleged culprits. Most of the existent laws depend on political expediency for their effectiveness. In the name of protection against frivolous charges, a lot of immunities have been inbuilt into the laws. Though they are being inbuilt to protect honest and upright in the system, they have ended up protecting the corrupt.

In the present system neither the investigative agencies nor the prosecuting process is independent of political masters of the day and so we find in many cases high and mighty escape the clutches of law.

The present “Jan Lokpal Bill” actually addresses this very edifice of the current law and so a lot of hue and cry is being generated in the system. Those, who matter in the society, are up against enactment of such a law and raising procedural matter relating to democracy and supremacy of Parliament. Where are we challenging the authority of the government and Parliament? We are not asking that we should be given authority to enact the law. Rather, we are trying to help the government in enacting an effective “Jan Lokpal Bill”. Our role is limited to generate public opinion in favour of creating an effective mechanism to deal with the malice.

Anna Hazare’s fast-un-to-death demonstration was part of such an exercise and through this India Against Corruption could largely achieve the purpose of generating public opinion against corruption. Mr Hazre’s face could appeal to the people at large, as he proved to be a credible face to fight against corruption. Since there were doubts that the government could enact an effective Bill, we asked for a joint panel to draft the law. Public pressure forced the government to accept our demand and thus the joint panel was formed.

Since then a campaign was launched to discredit the civil society members on the panel and shift focus from the main issue of corruption. It was natural and we expected that this would happen. But still our resolve is there and we would try our best to see through that an effective Bill is drafted, adopted by the government and passed by the Parliament.

(The writer is an RTI Activist, a prominent face of ‘India against Corruption’ and a close Associate of Anna Hazare)

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