THE LOKPAL DEBATE RESOURCE PAGE

The debate surrounding the creation of the office of Lokpal at the centre has really not been a debate at all. It's more like a battle of attrition between two entrenched, polarised positions whose proponents seem disinclined to engage in any meaningful way.

Towards creating a genuine debate, the National Campaign for People’s Right to Information (NCPRI) has circulated a letter and documents. To this end, resources relating to the genesis, contents and issues relating to the various drafts of the Lokpal Bill are linked below.

"But who will listen to me?" Lots of people are keen on getting your feedback on this issue.

For starters, we invite you to email your views to this address: views.lokpal@gmail.com. You can also join us on Facebook to get updates and news.

You may also send your well-considered suggestions to the Parliamentary Committee looking at this Bill by September 4, by emailing kpsingh@sansad.nic.in.

NEW!!
Comparison of the three Lokpal proposals
(Government, IAC and NCPRI): Now available as webpage and pdf file.
The Government Bill
Jan Lokpal Bill
NCPRI Documents
The PRS India website has the best collection of drafts and background resources relating to the Lokpal Bill.

Draft Bill, June 21, 2011 version.

Other resources from the India Against Corruption site are available here, including "Salient features of the Jan Lokpal Bill."

Lok Satta Proposal
Bahujan Lokpal Proposal
Bahujan Lokpal Bill 2011
(pdf file)
drafted by All India Confederation of SC/ST Organisations and others
Resources
Resources
from the NCPRI website

NCPRI comparative documents

Background resources on
accountability and governance

NEW!!!
Links to features, commentary, interviews and analysis have moved to a separate page: Media Clipboard

Resources from the NCPRI website

1. Background Documents on Jan Lokpal Bill

2. Public Consultations on ‘Collective and Concurrent Lokpal Anti Corruption and Grievance Redress Measures' by the NCPRI, Nehru Memorial Museum and Library and Inclusive Media 4 Change (CSDS)

3. NCPRI Press Release, August 16, 2011

4. About the NCPRI

5. NCPRI Press Note, August 20, 2011

6. Statement from Aruna Roy and Nikhil Dey, September 11, 2011.

Comparisons of the various proposals from the NCPRI

1. India Against Corruption (IAC) And The National Campaign For People’s Right To Information (NCPRI) Approaches Towards The Lokpal: Agreements And Differences

2. Major Amendments Suggested to the Government's Bill. (pdf only, because it is a composite of other documents)

Background resources on the Lokpal institution and on Accountability

What is Lokpal Bill? Another website with good resources.

Second Administrative Reforms Commission, Fourth Report: Ethics in Governance, January 2007. (Hindi pdf file)

The Accountability Initiative at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi, has been engaging with a range of related questions. Do visit their Document Library.The Initiative blogs here and you can access their research here.

The Centre for Budget and Governance Accountability has also been working in this area, but primarily from the point of view of budget-writing.

Eldis.org is a useful portal that compiles academic papers and practitioner reports on a range of development and governance issues. See their section on Governance, whose sub-themes include Accountability and Corruption.

InfoChange India has a section on Governance. Some recent features that address accountability and this particular debate:

In 2009, a special issue of the InfoChange dossier Agenda focused on Civil Society.

India Together has a section devoted to the Right to Information.

Balaji compiled this list of articles in April 2011 on his blog that are useful for reconstructing the debate and events at that moment.

Jayant Bhatt, An Analysis of Parliamentary Privileges in India, LegalServiceIndia.com.

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Letter from Aruna Roy, MKSS:

As a preface and a possible apology, let me say that this is a combination between a letter and a note. Please bear with the length of it. We write to you on a matter of mutual and common concern, the Lokpal bill, now in Parliament. The context of this letter is explained below.

When the Joint Drafting Committee of the Lokpal was working on the Jan Lokpal , the NCPRI had written to the Chair, Shri Pranab Mukherjee, and the co-chair Shri Shanti Bhushan, enquiring about the TORs and the process of and participation, in public consultation. Both assured us that there would be formal public consultation. It did not happen.

When the government bill went to cabinet with the intention of placing it in the monsoon session of parliament, the NCPRI decided to make its position known. The NCPRI is continuing with its deliberations and consultations and has prepared an approach paper and a set of principles for circulation. This is a work in progress.

The belief in consultations and discussion is the reason why we write to you.

The NCPRI’s (National Campaign for People’s Right to Information) involvement with legislation to deal with corruption and arbitrary use of power, began with the demand for an RTI law in 1996. The Lokpal was flagged as a law that needed to be taken up along with the Whistle Blowers Bill to address the killing of RTI activists and establish accountability. A committee was set up in the September 2010 for that purpose. The issue of the Lokpal was however taken up by some members of the NCPRI Working Committee, who formed the IAC and the NCPRI discussions remained suspended.

The Lokpal discussion has had an interesting trajectory. It began as the stated logical end of a large middle class mobilization on corruption. The stated end of that campaign was the demand for the setting up of a Joint Drafting Committee for a Lokpal bill. In common usage and understanding of corruption, the term casually refers to a range of corrupt practices. The political/governance spectrum is indeed more culpable than others. For it is mandated to maintain integrity in public life, to keep the country on keel with constitutional and other guarantees. This includes preventing the arbitrary use of power and corrupt practices. The Lokpal was too simplistically ordained by the campaign as a solution to all varieties of corrupt practices in our lives.

However the assurance that all solutions to the entire gamut of corrupt practices could be worked out through a strong Lokpal has left us with a great sense of disquiet. Not only because it does not address the arbitrary use of power. But because it is an unrealistic promise to rising expectations that it is an alleviation of all ills through one bill. It is also a question of the contents of the Jan Lokpal draft itself.

There have been public meetings but few consultations on the content of the Act in detail . While gestures and symbolic assent - like sms and referendums - may approve the intent, drafting of an Act needs more informed debate. The Lokpal debate has had its share of general platitudes, we need now to go beyond that. We also have to place the role of dissent squarely in the fulcrum of the debate. The discussions after all, flow from the acceptance that a strong Lokpal bill is needed. Also that the earlier and even the current government draft is faulty, even on principles.

The NCPRI however did make efforts before the 5th of April to arrive at a consensus with the IAC in a meeting held on 3rd April in the NMML. The NAC took up the matter independent of the NCPRI on the 4th April. The NCPRI had expressed reservations about the over arching and overwhelming structure of a law, which included grievances and corruption within its ambit. It was argued that though both are equally important, they require different mechanisms for implementation.

Subsequently events took over, and in the polarised discourse, it became impossible to make suggestions and or suggest changes. Every critique was attributed to wrong intent and viewed with suspicion and mistrust by the civil society members of the Joint Committee. Critique
of the Bill has evoked sharp reactions, and statements have been made that no amendments or change to the principles or the framework is possible, and that disagreement with the draft was tantamount to promoting corruption. We were baffled by such statements. The NCPRI however continued with the consultations to evolve an approach, a set of principles and measures to unpack the huge unwieldy and much too powerful structure proposed by the IAC.

We are attaching a set of documents defining our approach to the Lokpal, different both from the Jan Lokpal and the Government bills. The NCPRI would like to share a set of principles and a framework for deliberation. The summary of our basic arguments is detailed below. This was placed in the public domain by the NCPRI and the Inclusive Media 4 Change ( CSDS) on the 5th and 6th of June 2011.

The consensus that emerged was that in place of a single institution there should be multiple institutions and that a basket of collective and concurrent Lokpal anti corruption and grievance redress measures should be evolved.

Summary of the NCPRI approach towards a series of concurrent and collective Anti-corruption and Grievance Redress measures:

Rationale: Vesting jurisdiction over the length and breadth of the government machinery in one institution will concentrate too much power in the institution, while the volume of work will make it difficult to carry out its tasks.

1. Unanimous endorsement of the need for accountability of all public servants, including the contentious issue of inclusion of the PM, with a few caveats. ( No one is above the law, enforcing the rule of law).

2. An independent system for judicial scrutiny and standards.

3. An independent and strong institution to scrutinize corruption of public servants and issues, which require different administrative processes and organizational set-up.

4. A mechanism to redress grievances of the common citizen.

5. Whistle Blowers protection.

The five measures proposed by NCPRI are:

1. Rashtriya Bhrashtachar Nivaran Lokpal (National Anti-corruption Lokpal): An institution to tackle corruption of all elected representatives, including the Prime Minister (with some safeguards), Ministers and Members of Parliament and senior bureaucrats (Group ‘A’officers) and all other co-accused including those in the private and
social sector. The Lokpal will be financially and administratively independent from the government and will have both investigative and prosecution powers.

2. Kendriya Satarkta Lokpal (Central Vigilance Commission): Amending the Central Vigilance Commission Act to remove the single directive and empower the CVC to investigate corruption and take appropriate
action against mid-level bureaucracy.

3. Nyayapalika Lokpal (Judicial Standards and Accountability Lokpal): To strengthen the existing Judicial Accountability and Standards Bill, that is currently before the Parliament, to ensure that the judiciary is also made effectively and appropriately accountable, without
compromising its independence from the executive or the integrity of its functions.

4. Shikayat Nivaran Lokpal (Public Grievances Lokpal): To set up an effective time-bound system for grievance redress for common citizens to make the government answerable in terms of its functions, duties, commitments and obligations towards citizens. The grievance redress structure would have decentralized institutional mechanisms going right down to each ward/block level, and would ensure a bottom-up, people centric approach so that complaints and grievances
can be dealt with speedily and in a decentralized, participatory and transparent manner. It will integrate public vigilance processes like vigilance committees and social audits, and provide for facilitation for the filing of all grievances/complaints through the setting up of
block information and facilitation centres in every Block (rural) and ward(urban) in the country.The grievance redress mechanism will be a three-tier structure consisting of grievance redress officers at the local level within the department, independent district level grievance redressal authorities and central/State level grievance redress commission. It will include and rationalize existing
structures.

5. Lokrakshak Kanoon (Whistleblower Protection Lokpal): To strengthen the existing Public interest Disclosure and Protection to Persons Making the Disclosure Bill, that is currently before the Parliament, to ensure appropriate protection of whistleblowers.

These institutions, where relevant, will also be established at the State level. In addition there will be a common selection process to staff these institutions. We feel that all these measures need to be brought in simultaneously to effectively tackle corruption at all levels and provide a mechanism to redress grievances of citizens.

We write to you, to present this alternative, to elicit your responses, and to invite you to be part of the discourse. Please do let us know whether you are interested in being part of the discourse and in receiving periodic updates.

Please forward this on to friends and other interested people.

(email us at views.lokpal@gmail.com)

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Scope and Coverage- Lokpal Basket of Measures (ppt converted) (PDF)

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COLLECTIVE AND CONCURRENT LOKPAL ANTI-CORRUPTION AND GRIEVANCE REDRESS MEASURES (PDF)

The purpose of this exercise is to present to the government a well thought out and widely discussed set of measures that could be simultaneously and collectively adopted to prevent corruption at all levels, especially in high places, and to effectively redress grievances. Such measures could include the enactment of one or more laws in order to create the required institutions and authorities, the amendment of existing laws and practices, and the strengthening of existing institutions.

The concerns and issues that need to be kept in mind while formulating the anti-corruption and grievance redress measures include:
1. Anti-corruption institutions must be financially, administratively and legally independent of those whom they are called upon to investigate and prosecute.
2. It is essential to have a multiplicity of decentralized institutions, geographically and across levels, with appropriate accountability mechanisms, to avoid the concentration of too much power, especially unaccountable power, in any one institution or authority.
3. Irrational constraints, like the need to obtain prior sanction, to investigate or prosecute should not be allowed.
4. However, institutions and processes must be fair and impartial to both the complainant and the accused, and ensure that honest persons are not harassed in the process of investigation and prosecution.
5. Each anti-corruption institution must itself be accountable in the same manner that it seeks to make other institutions accountable.
6. Appointments to these institutions must be done transparently and in a participatory manner, so as to minimize the chances of the wrong sorts of people getting in.
7. The functioning of each of these institutions and authorities must also be transparent, while protecting whistle blowers and respecting legitimate privacy and other concerns, as laid out in the RTI Act. Efforts must be made to proactively disclose as much information as possible, complying with and moving beyond section 4 of the RTI Act.
8. Institutions must each be of a manageable size, with no one institution becoming so large that its effective management and control becomes a problem.
9. Similarly, institutions and authorities should not be allowed to be overwhelmed but should be so designed that they can deliver results within a reasonable time frame.
10. If democratic institutions falter or weaken, there is no alternative to repairing and strengthening them. Setting up a parallel regulatory or decision making process is unlikely to help and such a parallel system is likely to itself get corrupted.
11. Consequently, at the very least, initial complaints must lie with each public authority, and they must be given an opportunity of setting their own house in order. Only appeals against what are seen as unsatisfactory responses should come to the proposed independent bodies.
12. The basic framework of the Constitution need not be challenged and solutions could be found that are within the framework of the Constitution.
13. In order to ensure that the proposed institutions and authorities are themselves credible and not prone to mutual back-scratching, circular powers of oversight must be avoided where institutions and authorities oversee each other’s functioning and integrity.
14. In order to ensure efficacy and independence of an institution, it must be given adequate powers and resources to both investigate complaints and to ensure the effective prosecution of cases.
15. The development, in a bottom up manner, of appropriate citizen’s charters, as also the codification of a comprehensive set of entitlements for citizens, both in service delivery as well as for democratic rights, should be a pre-requisite to the setting up of a grievance redress mechanism.
16. Lessons need to be learnt from the experience with social audits, especially in relation to the MGNREGA. These lessons should influence the design and practice of social audits for large government expenditures and contracts. Social audits should also be conducted for assessing policies and their impacts.
17. The window of opportunity currently available, because of the widespread public sentiment against corruption, must be respected and fully utilized to bring in these measures as soon as possible.

Following from these principles, some of the measures that need to be concurrently and collectively implemented include:

1. Enacting a legislation for the setting up of Lokpal/Lokayukta Anti-Corruption Lokpals (Rashtriya/Rajya Bhrashtachar Nivaran Lokpal) at the Centre and in each of the states, that would receive, investigate and ensure effective prosecution of complaints about corruption relating to all elected representatives, including the Prime minister, Chief Ministers, Central and state Ministers, MPs, MLAs, MLCs, elected councilors, etc, and all class A officers, and to prosecute those against whom sufficient evidence is found. They would also have the power to investigate and prosecute any other person who is a co-accused in any of the cases being investigated or prosecuted by the Lokpal.

2. Amending the Judicial Accountability and Standards Bill, that is currently before the Parliament, to ensure that the judiciary is also made effectively and appropriately accountable, without compromising its independence from the executive or the integrity of its functions.

3. Drafting an act that provides for the setting up and functioning of Public Grievances Lokpal (Shikayat Nivaran Lokpal) at the centre and in each of the states. These commissions would have powers to ensure that detailed citizen’s charters and norms of functioning are prepared for each public authority. They would also ensure that other entitlements and rights are codified, and that the obligations of each public authority are fulfilled. The grievance redress commissions would have decentralized institutional mechanisms going right down to each ward/block level, and would ensure a bottoms up people centric approach so that complaints and grievances could be dealt with speedily and in a decentralized, participatory and transparent manner. The functioning of the grievance redress processes could be linked to the RTI Act and also to recent, time-bound, service delivery laws providing for the imposition of penalty on officials who do not meet the prescribed time frames for providing services to the public. The experience of the Delhi Grievance Redress Commission could also be instructive.

4. Strengthening the institution of the CVC and bringing in under its purview all officers not covered under the Lokpal bill. Towards that end, providing the institution of the CVC with adequate investigative and prosecution powers and resources. Creating similar, independent, State Vigilance Commissions for each of the states, and also strengthening departmental enquiry procedures.

5. An effective legislation to protect whistleblowers will be enacted. In addition, each of these institutions would also have provisions for protecting whistleblowers and their identity.

Each of these institutions and authorities will function transparently and will have to be accountable to the public for their actions (and inactions) through strong and effective accountability measures. An option that can be considered is that only one law be enacted that would contain all these proposed institutions and measures. However, the institutions must be separate and independent of each other.

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The National Campaign for People's Right to Information

PRESS RELEASE
16th August, 2011

(pdf)


The National Campaign for People’s Right to Information (NCPRI) strongly condemns the arrest of Anna Hazare and his team members and supporters. We also condemn the unwillingness of the Delhi Police and the government to grant them permission to hold a peaceful protest without agreeing to unreasonable conditions.

It is the democratic right of every person to protest peacefully and it is the responsibility of the government to ensure that public protests do not inconvenience or endanger other people. The government cannot abrogate this responsibility by either banning or severely constraining public protests, or by shifting their responsibility on to the protestors. How can Delhi be the capital of the largest democracy in the world and yet not allow the people of India to exercise their basic democratic rights?

Though the NCPRI does not agree with many of the demands of Anna Hazare and his campaign, we fully support their democratic right to publicly make those demands and are fully committed to protect such a right for all citizens of India.

We call upon the Government to immediately release Shri Anna Hazare and his supporters, and provide permission for them to continue with their non-violent democratic agitation.

Signed:
Nikhil Dey
Venkatesh Nayak
Angela Rangad
Ramakrishna Raju
Aruna Roy
Shekhar Singh
Harsh Mander
(For the National Campaign for Peoples’ Right to Information)

National Campaign for People’s Right to Information (NCPRI) (pdf)

This note attempts to clarify the allegations questioning the ‘legitimacy’ of the National Campaign for People’s Right to Information (NCPRI) and its proposal on the basket of measures for the Lokpal Bill. It is also to publicly clarify that the NCPRI is an independent, autonomous network of transparency and accountability advocates. This clarification becomes necessary in light of recent spurious allegations that attempt to portray the NCPRI as a tool of the Government of the day and attempt to blur the boundaries between the NCPRI and the National Advisory Council (NAC).

The NCPRI:

The National Campaign for People’s Right to Information (NCPRI) was formed in 1996 after the Beawar dharna in Rajasthan where a grassroots group of peasants, and workers along with activists were demanding transparency at the panchayat level. The NCPRI’s involvement with the legislative process to deal with corruption and arbitrary use of power began with the demand for an RTI law in 1996. The NCPRI endeavours to constantly engage and interact with the state and with other institutions and agencies. It campaigns for an effective implementation the RTI. It encourages and supports the development of materials related to transparency and governance, the raising of awareness about the fundamental value of information, the conduct of research, and the setting up of information clearing houses. It seeks to further the cause of transparency by adopting other direct and indirect methods, including the filing of information requests, the fighting of legal cases, and the holding of public hearings. The NCPRI seeks to actively work with other progressive campaigns and movements and in solidarity with other progressive elements of society.

Since 1996 NCPRI has drawn in a broad cross section of people, including retired judges, lawyers, journalists, social and political activists and also civil servants in its advocacy for a national RTI law. In 1996 the first draft of the RTI Bill was made under the Chairmanship of Justice P.B. Sawant who at the time was the Chairman of the Press Council of India (PCI). The PCI and NCPRI together drafted the People’s Bill on Right to Information and advocated for a national RTI law for over a decade, which was enacted in October 2005. Over the years the NCPRI has negotiated and engaged the government of India to enact robust transparency legislation. However, it has also not hesitated to confront the government where attempts have been made to weaken or dilute the law. The July 2006 dharna against the first proposed amendments bill, the second dharna in opposition to amendments in November 2009 and, numerous letters and exchanges, all open to the public, convey the contentious process that has gone into the advocacy for and enactment of the RTI legislation.

What is the NAC?

The National Advisory Council (NAC) has been set up as an interface with Civil Society. The NAC comprises distinguished professionals drawn from diverse fields of development activity who serve in their individual capacities. Through the NAC, the Government has access not only to their expertise and experience but also to a larger network of Research Organizations, NGOs and Social Action and Advocacy Groups. The NCPRI members on the NAC are members in an honorary capacity, that is, they do not receive and salaries, or other privileges. Except for a travel allowance for attending meetings of the NAC in Delhi, the members receive no monetary or other special privileges in return.

The NAC provides policy and legislative inputs to Government with special focus on social policy and the rights of the disadvantaged groups. NAC 1 was set up to monitor the National Common Minimum Programme (NCMP) a set of promises to the people. The NAC ( 2), reconstituted in June 2009 also incorporates and pays attention to the priorities stated in the address of the President of India to Parliament on 4 June, 2009. In addition, the NAC reviews the flagship programmes of the Government and suggest measures to address any constraints in their implementation and delivery. (http://nac.nic.in/).

Deliberation does not equal co-option:

To suggest that the NCPRI and the NAC are the same and to question the legitimacy of NCPRI on its suggested basked of measures on the Lokpal, simply because members of the NCPRI are also members of the NAC appears to be a case of diverting attention from the real issues, that is, the creation of a strong and independent Lokpal. It is also reflective of a disregard for difference in opinion. If one does not agree with the methods or the suggestions made by NCPRI, it seems rather naïve to accuse the NCPRI of being co-opted by the government and assume that the NCPRI and the NAC are one voice. For example, as the recent case of the proposed Food Security Bill tells us, it is in fact untrue. The numerous deliberations over what was proposed, what was ‘accepted’ and what has been left out, despite the many attempts by few NAC members to bring a comprehensive Food Security Bill into Parliament, suggests the radically divergent opinions of the government and the NCPRI members within the NAC. (See NAC minutes of meetings for more details: http://nac.nic.in/meetings.htm).

Discussions and debates within the NAC while cordial cannot be presumed to be apolitical or less contentious. If one is not protesting, shouting down the government or marching in a rally, it cannot be assumed that engaging in negotiation and dialogue is suggestive of co-option. In fact it is a part of the same process- of demanding from outside the system, and fighting for spaces for ones’ arguments. The NCPRI has always held there is no compromise on the basic principles of the issue they espouse or support. Thus, it does not deter to lay out, upfront, the non-negotiable in any deliberative process and maintains its tenacity to persist on substantive discussion. What this “us” and “them” distinction does is draw attention away from substantive discussion over issues and processes.

The NCPRI note circulated last week (10th August 2011) details the various discussions, meetings and exchanges on the Lokpal Bill we need not go into that here. It is important to note however, once the Government of India constituted the Joint Drafting Committee (JDC), the NAC, which had taken up the matter of Lokpal independent of the NCPRI on the 4th April, stopped all consultations on the Lokpal Bill. However, as the government bill went to cabinet with the intention of being introduced in the monsoon session of parliament, the NCPRI decided to make its position known. The NCPRI is continuing with its deliberations and consultations. An approach paper and a set of principles have been prepared for circulation. This is a work in progress.

We will continue to put forth our suggestions, based on our experiences with drafting and implementing transparency legislations, on how to create the strongest and most effective possible Lokpal. And we will continue to insist that the process of consultation on the Lokpal bill be open to widest possible consultation.

Suchi Pande, Former Secretary, NCPRI, for the NCPRI
August 16, 2011

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PRESS NOTE (pdf)
20th August 2011

The National Campaign for Peoples’ Right to Information (NCPRI) has written to the Chairperson of the Standing Committee, Dr. Abhishek Manu Singhvi and the Prime Minister, enclosing our alternative approach and detailed formulations for fighting corruption and redressing grievances of citizens. The NCPRI has also asked that wider consultations be held in order to emerge with an effective set of legal measures. We believe that citizens’ participation in the making of laws is extremely important, and therefore this process should be opened up to all citizens and citizens’ groups who wish to contribute to it.

The National Campaign for Peoples’ Right to Information is a platform of individuals and organizations committed to making the government and society both transparent and accountable. The need for strong anti-corruption and grievance redress institutions has been under active discussion in the NCPRI since 2010.
We feel that this an extremely crucial timein the country when the provisions of the Lokpal bill need to be widely discussed and evolved. The bill iscurrently with the Standing Committee. The NCPRI has written to the committee today, highlighting the need for the standing committee to invite suggestions and comments from all interested groups across the country, including the NCPRI. We have also written to the government and leaders of all political parties demanding that wideconsultations be held in all parts of the country on the various provisions of the Lokpal bill.
The NCPRI has prepared a critique of the government draft of the Lokpal bill (as introduced in the LokSabha) and has evolved an alternate approach in the form of a basket of collective and concurrent Lokpal anti-corruption and grievance redress measures. The NCPRI approach builds onseveral public consultations organized by it since April 2011. In the consultations, there was unanimity that all public servants must be held accountable and an effective mechanism for grievance redress must be evolved. However, it was felt that no single institution should be made responsible for this mammoth task. Vesting all-encompassing power and responsibility in one institution would overload the institution making it difficult for it to carry out any of its tasks. Therefore, a consensus emerged that a basket of collective and concurrent Lokpal anti-corruption and grievance redress measures should be evolved.
In our view, the following five collective and concurrent anti-corruption and grievance redress measures, will be required to effectively tackle corruption and redress grievances:

1. RashtriyaBhrashtacharNivaranLokpal( National Anti-corruption Commission): Anti-corruption Lokpal to tackle corruption of all elected representatives- Prime Minister (with some safeguards), Ministers and Members of Parliament and senior bureaucrats (Group ‘A’ officers) and all other co-accused including those in the private and social sector. The Lokpal will be financially and administratively independent from the government and will have both investigative and prosecution powers. Please refer to note 1 for the major amendments suggested by the NCPRI to the Lokpal bill (as introduced in the LokSabha).

2. KendriyaSatarktaLokpal (Central Vigilance Commission): Amending the Central Vigilance Commission Act to remove the single directive and empower the CVC to investigate corruption and take appropriate action against mid-level bureaucracy. Please refer to note 2.

3. NyayapalikaLokpal (Judicial Accountability Commission): To strengthen the existing Judicial Accountability and Standards Bill, that is currently before the Parliament, to ensure that the judiciary is made effectively and appropriately accountable, without compromising its independence from the executive or the integrity of its functions. Please refer to note 3.
4. ShikayatNivaranLokpal (Grievance Redress Commission): To set up an effective time-bound and decentralized system for grievance redress for common citizens to make the government answerable in terms of its functions, duties, commitments and obligations towards citizens. This would be a bottom up structure that rationalizes the lessons and structure of the MGNREGA, proposed National Food Security Act and other social sector programmes. The Grievance Redress Commission would have representatives at the rural block and urban ward level and Facilitation Centres would be established in every Block to help citizens frame, register and pursue their grievances. Please refer to note 4.

5. LokrakshakKanoon(Whistleblower Protection): To strengthen the existing Public Interest Disclosure and Protection to Persons Making the Disclosure Bill, that is currently before the Parliament, to ensure appropriate protection of whistleblowers and to make it applicable to all the above mentioned institutions and also to all other relevant institutions. Please refer to note 5.

This approach only requires the decision for one new law- the Commission for redress of public grievances. The others are all amendments in existing Bills/Laws. It would ensure that no one is above the law, that institutions are appropriately empowered and citizens get an accountable administration. We feel it would be the most effective way of tackling corruption at different levels while making the administration accountable and empowering people.
Signed

Aruna Roy, Shekhar Singh, Harsh Mander, Nikhil Dey and Venkatesh Nayak
(For the NCPRI)

INDIA AGAINST CORRUPTION (IAC) AND THE NATIONAL CAMPAIGN FOR PEOPLE’S RIGHT TO INFORMATION (NCPRI) APPROACHES TOWARDS THE LOKPAL: AGREEMENTS AND DIFFERENCES
(pdf)

1. The IAC and the NCPRI are both committed to fighting corruption and mal-governance, and supporting the setting up of strong anti-corruption institutions.

2. The IAC envisages the Lokpal covering all public servants, and at all levels, from the PM to the peon, including ministers, elected representatives, all civil servants, and the judiciary. The NCPRI agrees.

3. The IAC envisages all these being covered by one institution, the NCPRI believes that this would make it too unwieldy, overwhelm it by sheer numbers, and concentrate too much power in the hands of a single institution. Therefore, the NCPRI proposes three different institutions:
a. A RashtriyaBhrashtacharNivaran Lokpal (National Anti-corruption Commission), to tackle corruption of all elected representatives- Prime Minister (with some safeguards), Ministers and Members of Parliament, and senior bureaucrats (Group ‘A’ officers),and all other co-accused.
b. The strengthening of theKendriyaSatarkta Lokpal (Central Vigilance Commission),to be an investigative, prosecution and appellate authority for the remaining categories of civil servants.
c. The setting up of aNyayapalika Lokpal (Judicial Accountability Commission)by strengthening the Judicial Accountability and Standards Billthat is currently before the Parliament, to investigate charges of corruption and misconduct against sitting judges.

4. The IAC proposes that the Lokpal should be independent of the government, function transparently, and have the mandate and ability to both investigate and prosecute allegations of corruption.The NCPRI agrees that this should be the case for each of the proposed three Lokpals.

5. The IAC proposes that a single Lokpal should deal not only with corruption at all levels but also function as a grievance redress mechanism. The NCPRI sees this as undesirable and impractical, especially given the numbers that would be involved and the need to tackle grievances in a decentralised manner. It, therefore, suggests the setting up of an independent, specialised and professional ShikayatNivaran Lokpal (Grievance Redress Commission) to effectively redressgrievancesin a decentralized and time-bound manner. This commission would have representativesat the rural block and urban ward level and could also become a single-window gateway for grievance redress for various central and centrally sponsored schemes like the MGNREGS.

6. The NCPRI has also proposed aneffectiveLokrakshakKanoon(Whistleblower Protection Law), by strengthening the Public Interest Disclosure and Protection to Persons Making the Disclosure Bill, that is currently before the Parliament, and ensuring that it becomes operative for all institutions that receive complaints relating to corruption and mal-governance and effectively protects the identity and interests of “whistleblowers”.

7. The IAC and the NCPRI both agree that the Lokpal, as an institution, should be replicated at the state level (through appropriate Lokayuktas).

8. Both the IAC and the NCPRI find the Government’s current Lokpal Bill, as introduced in Parliament, inadequate and in parts draconian. However, whereas the IAC seems to be demanding the withdrawal of the Government’s bill from Parliament and the introduction of its “Jan Lokpal Bill” into Parliament, the NCPRI believes that the weaknesses of the Government’s bill must first be discussed with the Parliamentary Committee that is seized with the matter and all efforts must be made to persuade the parliamentary Committee, the Government and the Parliament itself to finally pass a bill that is adequate and appropriate.

9. The NCPRI is emboldened by the experience with the RTI Act where, on the basis of various people’s groups lobbying with the concerned Parliamentary Committee and the Government, a large number of amendments were made by the Government to the official bill and the much improved bill was finally passed by the Parliament.

10. The NCPRI is committed to wide-ranging consultations with all sections of society in the process of developing any legislation, especially one that is so close to the hearts of people. It rejects the view that only governmentscan draft laws or that any one group of citizens has the sole prerogative of speaking on behalf of the people of India. It also rejects the view that mere disagreement with a viewpoint, whether that of the government or that of a group of people, can be termed as undemocratic, anti-national, or supportive of vested interests.

Statement from Aruna Roy and Nikhil Dey on the alleged Statement by Mr Arvind Kejriwal in the Press Conference at Ralegan Siddhi on 10th Sept 2011

We take exception to the following statement of Mr Arvind Kejriwal as has been reported in the Hindu dated 11th September 2011 ((http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/article2442072.ece): “He said Ms. Roy had wrongly alleged that Team Anna had not discussed the issue with her, in spite of having had three meetings with the members. “When we were supposed to meet her in [veteran journalist] Kuldip Nayar's house, she sent us back from the gate saying that she didn't want to talk to me. We tried, but she is not ready to engage in dialogue,” Mr. Kejriwal said.” (There are similar reports in other news media as well).

I/we have never alleged that team Anna has not discussed the issue with me/us, (or more appropriately the NCPRI). In fact, the NCPRI has never refused to engage in dialogue. Mr Kejriwal himself states that the issue has been discussed in “three meetings”, so the allegation that we have refused to engage in dialogue is wrong on the face of it.

I would like to set the record straight about the highly objectionable personal aspersions allegedly cast on me that “When we were supposed to meet her in [veteran journalist] Kuldip Nayar's house, she sent us back from the gate saying that she didn't want to talk to me” . I have not sent, and could not have sent, nor would send anyone back from the gate of anyone's house. We never met/saw/ or talked to Mr Kejriwal that day to be able to send him away from the gate. Nor did we ask for anyone to be sent away.

We were called by Mr Kuldip Nayar for a personal meeting, where he had said he was going to call Justice Rajinder Sachar, Ms Medha Patkar, and possibly Mr Prashant Bhushan. When a member of the NAPM came and informed us that several others from the IAC were also coming, we made it clear to Mr Kuldip Nayar that neither Nikhil Dey, nor I were mandated by the NCPRI to hold discussions on the law or the demands of the campaign. Mr Kuldip Nayar said he had, in fact called Medha Patkar, and Prashant Bhushan along with the two of us, as friends, and understood that there could be no formal dialogue or discussions.

As a matter of fact, Nikhil Dey and I met all those who came to Mr Kuldip Nayar’s house that morning. We had tea in a convivial atmosphere. We reiterated to everyone that we were not mandated to hold discussions on the lokpal issue, and had come to Mr Nayar’s house as friends, and not as members of the NCPRI. For discussions between the IAC and NCPRI on the lokpal issue, we requested Mr Prashant Bhushan to call Mr Shekhar Singh of the NCPRI to fix a meeting. This meeting was fixed and held. At no point has the NCPRI said it will not meet Mr Kejriwal.

This is our personal statement. The other assertions allegedly made by Mr Kejriwal that “Ms. Roy had not suggested an alternative Bill or law,” but merely “a proposal, a concept note,” and that many of the NCPRI proposals were “Unconstitutional” will be discussed in the public domain by the NCPRI.

Nikhil Dey and Aruna Roy, September 11, 2011

 

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Last update: December 9, 2011 3:33 PM (IST)