Wednesday, August 3, 2011



Can Lok Pal bring down corruption from current levels significantly - within 5 years time?
He may; or, he may not.
It depends on who sits in the Chair.

Ø  Some one who makes it the mission of his life to root out corruption – must sit in the chair of Lok Pal.
Ø  He must have Zero tolerance to corruption.
Ø  He must have infinite energy and guts to take on the high and mighty gangs of corruption.
Ø  He must  enjoy huge public support.
Ø  He must not belong to any Political Party.
Ø  He must not have any bias – in favour of / against any class, such as forward, backward, SC/ST, minorities, religious, regional, racial etc… it is not a tall order. India does have many such people. We must find some one like that.

Many of the past / present directors of Infosys and of many TATA Group companies – are good choices. This includes Ratan TATA – despite his age and despite attempts by some people to drag his name into controversies. TATA Group has lost out many opportunities in Independent India – due to their aversion to corruption. Kiran Bedi also can be a good choice.

Some of the Judges of the Supreme Court have really shown absolutely zero tolerance to corruption. They can be good choices. India needs to keep in mind all these choices – because, we need not only Lok Pal but also several Lok Ayukthas – whose importance is equally great – in each state.

India needs to hurry through this one change – change from a corruption-filled nation  to a corruption-free nation. The Lok Pal and the Lok Ayukthas in states must have the mission to accomplish it in 5 years sharp. In one tenure.

Who should select the Lok Pal?

It must be a small committee – consisting of 2 Supreme Court Judges, the Prime Minister and the Principal opposition leader. The outgoing lok Pal must also be a part of the selection committee from the second Lok pal onwards. I don’t think, we need to make it a large committee – with many others included therein. No Minister shall be a part of the committee – for the simple reason that they are directly subject to his scrutiny.

Let us deal with another related subject. What should be the Punishments for the Corrupt?

In India, the system of punishments is very peculiar.

For the same offence – there is a huge range of punishments, which makes it ridiculous and introduces heavy favouritism.

I had sent a number of suggestions to CVC twice in the past, first, a few years ago, and the second, an year ago.

I had pointed out that whether it is Administrative vigilance cells, or CVC or the Disciplinary Authorities – the punishments recommended / accorded by them to the guilty corrupt officials are not Uniform for same / similar offence.

More often, the punishment seems to depend on the mood of the moment. Or, the fate of the guilty.

There is need to standardize the Punishments.

For instance – for LTC fraud – let us say  – the uniform punishment shall be – (1) 50 percent Salary cut for 5 years and (2) recovery of total loss caused to Government. In case of a second fraud – compulsory retirement, with 25% Pension cut. The vigilance wings, CVC or punishing authorities shall not have discretion to reduce or increase this.

For acceptance of Bribe by a Group D or C official, the punishment shall be – (1) Compulsory transfer beyond 200 (say, 200-250) KMs, and (2) 50% salary cut for 5 years. For a second offence – compulsory retirement with 25% Pension cut.

For acceptance of bribe by a Group B official, the punishment shall be –(1) Demotion to Gr.C and (2)  50% salary cut for 5 years. For a second offence – compulsory retirement with 25% Pension cut.

Acceptance of Bribe by a Group A official –(1)Demotion to the Lowest Grade in Group A, and (2) 50% salary cut for 5 years. For a second offence – compulsory retirement with 25% Pension cut.

I have given a few illustrations. But currently – for the same LTC fraud, one man may be let off with an increment cut, but, another may be dismissed. Yet another may be made over to CBI. There is huge variation in the punishments recommended / given – which makes a mockery of the principle of Equality Before Law. This huge variation in punishments itself – is an open invitation to CORRUPTION.

The same principle applies to courts of Law. They also need to standardize punishments. But, Jailing, as a punishment, is not one that I would suggest for such offenses.

Economic Offence deserves Economic Punishment and it is a sufficient corrective measure. As simple as that.

What do you do for an MLA, MP or Minister? For Bribe taking, seize 50 percent of their Total Property, if it is less than Rs.1 cr and all property above Rs.1 Cr if the property is above Rs.1 Cr; Seize all properties of the spouse and children, which are disproportionate to their known sources of Income. And make him ineligible to contest any election for 10 years.

Actually Standardizing the punishments is an urgent necessity for all offences – whether these are handled by CVC, CBI, Administrative authorities – or Courts.

I do not suggest any one to be put in Jail for any such economic offences. No punishment for economic offenses should destroy a person’s life (or his dependants’ lives) totally. But, it must be deterrent enough for him and others – not to commit such crimes again.

We must ensure that Punishments are reformative and not destructive. In India, most laws, as they stand today,  are destructive and not reformative in awarding Punishments.

When a person comes out of Jail , he comes out more often, as a hard core criminal, while, when he went inside, he only committed a first time offence out of a temptation. To add to his woes, the Police force do not allow him to live peacefully and legally thereafter. These are Hard facts in India. Therefore, we must mould punishments to make them clearly reformative – and not destructive. So, economic offences need punishments – but  such economic punishments can be made stringent and deterrent.

Let us deal with another related question.

Should the Lok Pal be accountable to Parliament?

If Lok Pal has to check the corruption of all MPs and Ministers – can he be made accountable to them? There will be a number of cases of the same group – under scrutiny by the Lok Pal? Can he be accountable to all of them. Obviously not.

Reports relating to MPs and Ministers must be sent to the chief Justice of the Supreme Court of India. Reports relating officials – not related to cases in the first group can be sent to Parliament.

There are many such aspects of the proposed institution of the Lok Pal, which require careful examination and decision. Let us hope – Parliament will give due thought to all these aspects and come up with a strong Lok Pal Bill.         

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