Friday, August 26, 2011

CORRUPTION, ANNA HAZARE AND LOKPAL

Anna Hazare’s fast at the Ramlila Grounds has drawn good support from the urban middle class people.  Lokpal and Jan Lokpal are the oft-repeated words on the digital media and in the print media. Will such Lokpal or Jan Lokpal put an end to corruption?
Article 14 of the Constitution of India reads as follows:- “The State shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India”.  This is a fundamental right. Since the guarantee of equal protection embraces the entire realm of “State action” it would extend not only when an individual is discriminated against in the matter of exercise of his rights or in the matter of imposing liabilities upon him, but also in the matter of granting privileges, e.g., granting licences for entering into any business, inviting tenders for entering into a contract relating to Government business, or issuing quotas, giving jobs etc.  In all these cases, the principle is the same, viz., that there should be no discrimination between one person and another if as regards the subject-matter of the legislation their position is the same or in other words, its action must not be arbitrary but must be based on some valid principle which itself must not be irrational or discriminatory.
Corruption results in infringement of the above said fundamental right. The moment the said fundamental right is infringed, corruption steps in. For example, if two persons apply for a job, one with 85 per cent marks and the other with 70 per cent marks and if the person with 70 per cent marks is selected for the job, where the marks is the criterion for appointment, then the presumption is the appointing authority has done favour to the person with 70 per cent marks for extraneous considerations. Likewise, in awarding a contract, if a person who offers to do a particular work for the Government at a lower rate is not given the contract and a person who offered to do the same work for a higher rate is given the contract, both the persons standing on the same footing in all other aspects, then the presumption is the person who is awarded the contract has managed to get the contract by bribing the concerned authority. When a person who applies for electricity connection on 1st January by complying with all the requirements is not given the connection and another person who applies for the connection on 1st February is given the connection, the presumption is the latter person bribed the concerned official to get the connection earlier. We can show a large number of such examples.
All the public authorities must be directed to publish the details on their official website and on their official notice boards. If it is electricity connection,  the details must include, the date of application and the date of giving connection. If it is a college admission, the details must include the marks of all selected candidates. If it is a case of public employment the details must include the marks obtained by each candidate in the written examination and in the interview.  If it is a case of awarding contracts, the details must include the amounts tendered by all the persons who submitted the tenders. If such details are published on the website and the official notice boards, any person who participated in the process can know whether he has been overlooked for extraneous reasons and considerations. If a person who stands on a better footing than the selected person, then he must be given the right to ask for the reasons for not selecting him and the concerned authority should have the duty to give the reason within a prescribed time limit, say a week or so. If no reason is given by the concerned public authority within the prescribed time limit, the said person should be given the right to lodge a complaint against the concerned public official and a case should be registered against the concerned public official and it should be made a cognizable offence and prosecution much be launched besides taking departmental disciplinary action as per law. On the other hand, if any reason is given by the public official the concerned person can approach a court of law contending that the said reason is unreasonable and contrary to law and the court of law will have to decide on the validity of the selection. If such transparency and enforcement are ensured, it will go a long way in preventing corruption to a large extent.
Corruption cannot be eliminated if the machinery supposed to eliminate corruption itself is corrupt   Therefore it is highly important and absolutely necessary to appoint persons of known integrity and honesty to such posts in a transparent manner. If a member of the Lokpal or Lokayukta is corrupt, what is the point in approaching him complaining of corruption?  The recent large scale scams such as CWG scam, 2G scam, etc would have died a natural death but for the active intervention of the Hon’ble Judges of the Supreme Court of India who are known for their integrity and honesty.  We can not expect such a course of action from corrupt judges especially when big business houses are involved in such scams.
No person is above the law. The present requirement of obtaining sanction to prosecute the public servants, including Ministers, should be done away with.  It should be left to the concerned court of law to examine whether there is any prima facie case against the concerned public servant and if the court comes to the conclusion that there is a prima facie case the court may direct prosecution and if no prima facie case is made out the court may reject the complaint.  The requirement of obtaining sanction from the Governor should be done away with.
With regard to corruption in the Judiciary, a National Judicial Commission should be set up to examine all complaints against the judges of the higher judiciary and to take such follow-up action as may be necessary. With regard to the lower judiciary, the High Court of the concerned State may take action on the basis of complaints that show a prima facie case.
Therefore, without ensuring transparency and enforcement, as stated above, we cannot hope to go a long way in preventing or eliminating corruption.   
-P. RAJENDRAN


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