Citizens group urges Manmohan to pass Lokpal Bill

A group of concerned citizens, including Karnataka Lokayukta Santosh Hegde, the former Chief Election Commissioner, J.M. Lyngdoh, and the former Central Vigilance Commissioner, P. Shankar, has written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, urging him to take measures to pass a Lokpal Bill to effectively and impartially tackle cases of political and bureaucratic corruption.

The September 1 letter impressed on Dr. Singh the need for setting up Lokayuktas and Lokpals as independent, impartial institutions with the powers and resources to accept, investigate and prosecute complaints against politicians and bureaucrats. “Lokpal at the Centre and Lokayukta at the State-level should be made the single apex, independent and effective anti-corruption agency.” Once strengthened, the institutions would also be in a position to provide protection to whistleblowers, the letter said.

Pointing out the deficiencies in the existing anti-corruption architecture, the letter said the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC), the apex body for all vigilance cases in the government, was a “small set-up” which functioned “merely as an advisory body.”

It did not have powers to direct the Central Bureau of Investigation to initiate enquiries against any officer of the level of Joint Secretary and above. The vigilance body had to take permission from the same department whose senior officers were implicated in cases of corruption.

“The CVC does not have the powers to register a criminal case… It does not have powers over politicians...” The letter also noted that appointments to the CVC were directly under the control of the ruling party.

The letter said though the CBI could investigate on its own any case relating to a Central government department, it was directly under the administrative control of the Centre which led to allegations of bias against the agency. “The CBI is perceived to have been often used to settle scores against inconvenient politicians.”

Besides the CVC and the CBI, there were departmental vigilance wings which were manned by officials from the same department which made it “impossible for them to be independent and objective while inquiring into complaints against their colleagues and seniors.”

The letter said the situation was worse at the State-level, with the Lokayuktas required to seek the State government's permission to investigate cases involving officials above a certain rank. The Lokayuktas were also hampered, being only advisory bodies.

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