A study of three different anti corruption Bills makes a very interesting reading. These Bills are: The Jan Lokpal Bill, The Lokpal Bill and THE PREVENTION OF BRIBERY OF FOREIGN PUBLIC OFFICIALS AND OFFICIALS OF PUBLIC INTERNATIONAL ORGANISATIONS Bill. It would be quite instructive to make a comparative study of the statement of Objects and Reasons. I quote from these Bills:
1. “Bribery of public officials to obtain advantages in international business raises
serious moral and political concerns, undermines good governance and sustainable economic development, and distorts competition. Corruption in awarding business contracts has social, political, environmental and economic costs which no country can afford. Serious consequences result when public officials take bribes in awarding contracts to foreign businesses for public services such as roads, water, electricity etc. resulting in inappropriate decisions and undermining plans for development.
The ratification of Convention would require criminalising the act of foreign bribery and it would strengthen India’s existing anti-corruption laws that demonstrate India’s commitment to good governance and give more credibility in its fight against bribery and corruption.”
This crisp formulation is sufficient to meet the requirements of an anti corruption law for the country. But it is in response to the UN convention against corruption. Now compare it with the loose, directionless, insipid and half-hearted formulation of the government’s official Lokpal Bill. It reads :
“The need to have a strong and effective institution of Lokpal has been felt for quite sometime. The Administrative Reforms Commission, in its interim report on the “Problems of Redressal of Citizens’ Grievances” submitted in 1966, inter alia, recommended the setting up of an institution of Lokpal at the Centre in this regard. To give effect to this recommendation of the Administrative Reforms Commission, eight Bills on Lokpal were introduced in the Lok Sabha in the past, namely in the years 1968, 1971, 1977, 1985, 1989, 1996, 1998 and 2001.However, these Bills had lapsed consequent upon the dissolution of the respective Lok Sabha except in the case of 1985 Bill which was withdrawn after its introduction.
2. A need has been felt to constitute a mechanism for dealing with complaints on
corruption against public functionaries in high places. In this regard, the Central Government constituted a Joint Drafting Committee (JDC) on 8th April, 2011 to draft a Lokpal Bill.
3. Based on the deliberations and having regard to the need for establishing a strong and effective institution of Lokpal to inquire into allegations of corruption against certain public functionaries, it has been decided to enact a stand alone legislation, to provide for the establishment of the institution of Lokpal to inquire into allegations of corruption against certain public functionaries and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.”
The introductory reads as: WHEREAS the Constitution of India established a democratic Republic to ensure justice for all; AND WHEREAS the country’s commitment to clean and responsive governance has to be reflected in an effective institution to independently inquire into and prosecute acts of corruption; NOW, THEREFORE, it is expedient to establish a strong and effective institution to contain corruption.
The Jan Lokpal Bill draws extensively on the UN Convention Against Corruption and refers to various articles, which have been distilled in the Prevention of Bribery Of Foreign Officials etc Bill. It says that in order to achieve the goals set in the UNCAC, the Jan Lokpal Bill seeks to set up an independent Institution of the LokPal to investigate and prosecute the offender.
These three formulations have been put at one place to emphasize the significance of a strong anti corruption law. The need has been fully acknowledged by the Government of India, if the succinct statement of Objects and Reasons in THE PREVENTION OF BRIBERY OF FOREIGN PUBLIC OFFICIALS AND OFFICIALS OF PUBLIC INTERNATIONAL ORGANISATIONS Bill considered. It brings out the damaging effects of corruption on the economy, democracy, stability, development and morals. But that Bill is in response to the demands of the UN convention. Isn’t it equally relevant to domestic needs of India. Does corruption affect India differently than the bribing of the foreign officials? It has the same crippling effect. Had the same labour and commitment gone into the drafting of the Lokpal Bill, the civil society movement would not have been necessitated.
Both the Lokpal Bill and the Prevention of Bribery of Foreign Public Officials etc are pending with the same committee of parliament. It would have provided a better understanding to the public if comments had been invited on both the Bills. The Committee has invited public comments on the Lokpal Bill only. It needs to be highlighted for public information as to how the United Nations sees corruption and what efforts other countries are making to curb its menace. Distorting competition or making inappropriate decisions can no more be allowed to cause political and economic suffering in India. The public movement against corruption only strengthens the government’s resolve to prevent bribery and other forms of corruption. The Lokpal Bill needs to be re-drafted on similar lines.