Once again politicians are in the news for allegations of corruption and various actions are being taken against them. Lalu Yadav has been sentenced by a Jharkhand court to imprisonment for a case that dates at least seventeen years back. On the other hand Mulayam Singh Yadav and Mayawati have been absolved by the CBI on charges of possessing assets disproportionate to their means of income. All this highlights the demand made by Anna Hazare that there should be an independent mechanism to deal with graft or gifts to powerful people. He has suggested the constitution of a Lokpal, which matter has been pending since the time of Mrs. Gandhi or even before. As usual the Government dithered and nothing came out of it. But if public confidence is to be restored in the body politic of this country, it is imperative that some mechanism has to be put in place.
It is a good idea to make a beginning with the Lokpal. The scope of the Lokpal, as Anna Hazare has demanded, is for all Government servants meaning lakhs of people. However if the Lokpal is formed only for Ministers, that itself will be a starting point of restoring confidence in the public provided such a Lokpal is not answerable to the political Government of the day. It has to be under the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Even the CBI should not interfere. If a matter of disproportionate assets comes up, even the CBI does not have the mechanism or the wherewithal to make a proper enquiry.
Whatever the Government may claim, the fact remains that CBI officers are just police officers and they will be under the influence of either their respective State cadres or the Central Government in any case. If the CBI cannot be made autonomous for which there can be arguments for and against, the best thing is to have a Jan Lokpal or a Lokpal only for Ministers of the State or Centre which will not be more than a thousand or even less but it should enquire into all cases without referring to the CBI or the CVC or any other body. There can be a minimum qualification as to the complaint because an individual’s complaint cannot be dealt with, otherwise the work will never end. But if a proper reasonable case is made against a person then the Lokpal can take cognisance of it and start its enquiry and come to a conclusion which will be submitted to the Supreme Court and it will be binding on all concerned. Such a Lokpal can sit in Delhi and have a compact office with all the requisite powers akin to a court. It should also have access to police officers but who should not report to the respective States or to the CBI or to any other political authority. It would be a new experiment. But new problems need new solutions. Now we are in an era where politicians are very powerful, we cannot say that we can wish them away. They have large vote banks and they are likely to capture power again. Some are already in power, some may again be in power. So it is very imperative that these people who are in the public eye should be above suspicion. Whether Rahul Gandhi talked about the ordinance to clean up public life or he had his own agenda- this was not important. The fact remains that the very idea of bringing up an ordinance to reverse the Supreme Court judgement which seemed to clean the political atmosphere was not a good step. The Supreme Court judgement was itself flawed because it says that if once a person is convicted he’ll be debarred-convicted by whom? Even if conviction is by a lower court it is not a good order the lower courts function terribly, the lower judiciary is not accountable at all they are accountable to the local Chief Minister.
So today in UP the ruling Chief Minister can get the opposing MLA fixed and convicted and his political career is gone. It should be at the High Court level, so the Supreme Court judgement needs amendment – and the amendment is –that once the High Court convicts somebody he should be debarred. These are some of the steps which should be taken and elections are still 6 months away. If the Congress party wants to make a bid to come back to power, if the BJP wants to make a bid to come to power then these are the parties which should take up these issues- call an all party meeting and whichever party doesn’t agree with this amendment will themselves stand to lose in the public eye. The time has come when politicians should clean themselves so that their moral authority goes up in the public eye and even the bureaucrats and the people working under them start fearing them, unlike now when everybody seems to be taking advantage of each other.