Wednesday, August 24, 2011

சிங்கபூரில் லோக்பால் சட்டம்: விளைவுகள்


ஜன்லோக்பாலுக்கு ஒப்பான சட்டம் சிங்கபூரில் 1982ல் அமுல்படுத்தபட்டது.சொல்லபோனால் ஜன்லோக்பால் சட்டம் சிங்கபூர் சட்டத்தை அடியொற்றியது என சொல்லும் அளவுக்கு உள்ளது.இந்த சட்டம் அமுலானதால் சிங்கபூரில் என்ன விளைவுகள் உண்டானது?

ஒரே நாளில் 142 ஊழல் மந்திரிகள் கைது செய்யபட்டனர்

அரசின் அனைத்து மட்டங்களிலும் ஊழல் ஒழிந்தது

சிங்கபூர் இன்று உலகின் நம்பர் ஒன் ஊழல் அற்ற நாடு

இந்தியாவில் இதே போல் நடக்கும் என சொல்ல முடியாது.ஆனால் ஏன் முயற்சிக்க கூடாது?

There are few fights in the world where the two opposing factions can be this easily labeled as white or black, right or wrong, good or evil.  The fight for the Jan Lokpal Bill is one such rare example. Firstly, its objective is noble. It seeks to curb corruption in the Indian society. Secondly, the movement is unquestionable. It is not politically motivated. It is not going to bring the BJP or any other dubious party to power. It is a revolution led by an honest man and supported by the youth. Thirdly, the proposed Jan Lokpal Bill borrows from proven measures for tackling corruption. As I will demonstrate in this post, the proposed Jan Lokpal Bill is fairly similar to the laws of Singapore (the least corrupt nation of the world according to Transparency International)[1].

The Singapore Experience

For a nation genuinely seeking to reduce corruption, there can be few better examples to follow that that of Singapore. In 2010, Singapore, along with Denmark and New Zealand, was ranked by Transparency International as the least corrupt nation in the world[1]. Singapore achieved this position with several synergistic measures (Read: " Eradicating Corruption-The Singapore Experience[2]", by Mr. Muhammed Ali, Acting Assistant Director in 2000 of the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau – CPIB). One among these measures was the establishment of the CPIB for investigating corruption related complaints.

It is interesting to note here that the powers granted to the Lokpal under the proposed bill are similar on several counts to those granted to the CPIB under the Singapore law. On certain counts, the Jan Lokpal Bill does contain debatable provisions but the activists version is surely closer to an ideal law than that of the government.

In the table below, I have compared the proposed version of the Jan Lokpal Bill with the provisions of Singapore's Anti Corruption Law. I have taken pains to ensure that the sources of my information are absolutely genuine. I have hyperlinked my sources so that the reader can verify the authenticity of the information.

A Comparision of the proposed Jan Lokpal Bill & Singapore's Anti-Corruption Law

Proposed Jan Lokpal Bill

Singapore's Anti Corruption Law

The Lokpal will be completely independent of the government. No minister or bureaucrat will be able to influence their investigations [3]

CPIB's independence of action was more or less guaranteed constitutionally[4]. However, it does report to the PM's office.

The Jan Lokpal Bill advocates the inclusion of MPs under the Lokpal.

If there is any allegation against any MP [Member of Parliament] or Minister of assets wrongfully gained or corruptly gained, the CPIB will investigate. [5]

The Jan Lokpal Bill advocates the inclusion of the Prime Minister under the ambit of the Lokpal.

The fine print is slightly different here, but under the Singapore constitution, if the Prime Minister does not grant the permission to investigate, the CPIB can take recourse to the President, thus creating a situation where 'even the Prime Minister can be investigated'. [5]

The Lokpal can receive complaints from the public [3]

Here is an online form that Singapore citizens can use to file a complaint [6]

Deterrence has been provided against frivolous complaints in the form of financial penalties against the complainant [7]

The CPIB has punished those who have tried to take undue advantage of this law. [8]

Lokpal will have complete powers and machinery to independently investigate any officer, judge or politician [3]

The CPIB has complete police powers. It has the power to arrest, investigate and search. Search can also be performed without warrant, if necessary. [9]

It will be the duty of the Lokpal to provide protection to those who are being victimized for raising their voice against corruption [3]

The law guarantees protection of identity to the person reporting the offense [10]

The loss that a corrupt person causes to the government will be recovered at the time of conviction [3]. The usage of the term 'loss caused to government' makes the bill harsher than the Singapore law. However, some penalty in addition to returning the amount of the bribe must be demanded so that it serves as deterrence.

Besides fine and imprisonment, the person convicted of corruption offence will be ordered by the court to return the amount of bribe, which he had accepted in the form of a penalty.[2] The convicted public officer would lose his job, pension and other benefits. [2]

Enhanced punishment – The punishment would be minimum 5 years and maximum of life imprisonment. [11] 

The Singapore courts have in the past sentenced corrupt officers investigated by the CPIB to 14 years of imprisonment. [12]. Here the Lokpal Bill is similar in intent i.e. to provide for harsh punishments for offenders, but it perhaps goes too far in mandating a minimum of 5 years imprisonment.

Its members will be selected by judges, citizens and constitutional authorities and not by politicians, through a completely transparent and participatory process [3]

Here the Singapore law differs in application but not on intent. The appointments to the CPIB [13] are made by the President of Singapore who is directly elected [14] by the people, thus reducing the ability of politicians and bureaucrats to influence the selection process.

The Lokpal will have prosecution powers [3].

The CPIB does not have prosecution powers making this point debatable.

Investigations in any case will have to be completed in one year. Trial should be completed in next one year so that the corrupt politician, officer or judge is sent to jail within two years [3]

Here the Jan Lokpal Bill deviates from the CPIB. However, given that the CPIB manages to clear 98% of its cases within 90 days, this does not appear to a highly unreasonable clause. [15]

So Why Is The Government Fighting The Bill?

This analysis brings us to the main point. If the Jan Lokpal Bill appears to be a strong step in the right direction, why is the government fighting it? The fine print of the Jan Lokpal Bill may need to be debated, but why is the government so keen on its version of the bill that makes the Lokpal a toothless body – a body which can work only in an advisory capacity (no police powers) and which can investigate only those complaints forwarded to it by the speaker of the Lok Sabha or the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha.[16]

The answer to this question is simple. Power. An independent, powerful Lokpal will deprive Indian politicians of their primary source of livelihood – the misuse of power for personal gain. The specter of a strong body with prosecution powers haunts them because they fear accountability.

The Way Forward

Given the lack of strong political leadership, it is unlikely that the government is going to put in serious efforts to pass a bill that greatly diminishes its own power. The passage of this bill appears unlikely without a strong people's movement.

So far, the movement appears to have made an impact. The government has agreed to the demands of 50% representation of civil society activists on the drafting committee for the Jan Lokpal Bill [17]. But, the real test lies ahead. As time passes, the movement will lose steam. The politicians know it. They know how to buy time. To be passed into a law, the bill needs to be approved by the parliament and it would be no mean task trying to pass a strong anti-corruption bill through a Lok Sabha whose membership includes 150 members with criminal charges against them [18].

This is why it is so important that the movement continues till the end – till the day the bill is passed into a law. The movement for the Jan Lokpal Bill is a spotless movement with a noble objective, advocating a progressive bill and it is worth every bit of the effort we put in.


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