Lokpal vs Jan Lokpal Bill
If there is one social issue that has caught the imagination of the people of India at present, it is the issue of corruption at all levels, and the fight of the people to come up with a citizen’s ombudsman bill, better known as Jan Lokpal bill. One Gandhian and social activist, Anna Hazare and his team are at the forefront of this fight, and are trying hard to make legislators accept their draft bill, while government of the day is trying to rush in with its own version of the bill called Lokpal. There is a situation of utter chaos as people are not really aware of the provisions of both these bills. This article attempts to highlight the features of both the draft bills in a manner to differentiate between the two bills.
It is the desire of the people to get created an independent body called Lokpal that would have the power to investigate government officials, members of judiciary, and members of parliament including ministers and Prime Ministers, and even private citizens if cases of corruption are brought to the notice of this autonomous body like Election Commission. Though the bill has been pending for decades, no government had the audacity to get it drafted and get passed in the parliament to give it a legal status. With cases of graft and corruption coming to light one after the other and causing embarrassment for the government (whether it was telecommunications minister A. Raja in 2G scam, or Suresh Kalmadi in Commonwealth Games scam) and growing public anger over helplessness of the government to stop such cases of corruption, it was only natural for people to vehemently support Anna Hazare and his team to fight for Jan Lokpal bill.
The government, sensing the mood of the people, has shown intent to draft a proposed bill on the issue, and for this purpose held several meetings with Anna team to come up with a compromise formula as there are glaring differences between Jan Lokpal bill and the bill that government proposes to introduce. Government has finally come up with a draft bill that it proposes to introduce in the Lok Sabha. However, the version of the bill, prepared by government is unacceptable to Anna Hazare and his civil society team, and Anna has declared that he will start a fast unto death from August 15 if his version of the bill, which is being labeled as Jan Lokpal bill, is not introduced in its original form in the Lok Sabha. It is in this context that differences between Lokpal and Jan Lokpal need to be highlighted for common people to appreciate and decide on which one to support. According to the civil society, the Lokpal bill proposed by the government is like a toothless tiger which is nothing more than wastage of public money as it cannot fight corruption at all.
Difference Between Lokpal and Jan Lokpal
• The biggest debate that has been raging between the two sides pertains to inclusion of Prime Minister, President, and the judges of the Supreme Court within the ambit of Lokpal, which is unacceptable to the government.
• While Jan Lokpal will have powers to take suo motu action against corrupt officials, MP’s or ministers, Lokpal as proposed by the government has no such powers, and it can take action only if, the speaker of the Lok Sabha forwards a complaint (or chairman of Rajya Sabha).
• Jan Lokpal has powers to act on complaints received from general public, while Lokpal cannot initiate action on such complaints.
• Lokpal cannot register FIR, whereas Jan Lokpal has the power to initiate cases by registering FIR
• Lokpal as proposed by government is at best an advisory body, whereas Jan Lokpal is competent enough to take up and pursue cases of corruption on its own
• Lokpal will not have powers to prosecute judges, bureaucrats, members of parliament, and PM, while there is no such bar on the powers of Jan Lokpal.
• Lokpal can only prosecute and get the corrupt official sentenced to prison, but there is no provision to wrest back the wealth amassed through corrupt means. On the other hand, Jan Lokpal has the power to get the property of the culprit confiscated and handed over to the government
• In the bill proposed by the government, corrupt people can take benefit of the present judicial system and can go on to enjoy their illegal wealth for years, but Jan Lokpal bill proposes maximum trial period of 1 year so as to send the culprit behind bars as soon as possible.