While there is no consensus on the exact shape of the Lokpal Bill, it is clear the gap between the key political players on most of the contentious issues has been narrowed. Under severe pressure from Team Anna and its supporters across India, the United Progressive Alliance coalition has been obliged to go some way towards meeting the movement's key demands. After fiercely resisting the idea, it has agreed to include the office of the Prime Minister, with some qualifications, and the lower bureaucracy within the ambit of the Lokpal. Concurrently, the Union Cabinet has cleared the Citizens' Right to Grievance Redress Bill. The provision in the Bill providing for a grievance redressal mechanism needs, of course, to be closely and critically scrutinised from the standpoint of public service entitlement and efficient delivery. Expectedly, the sticking points seem to be the status and the superintendence of the Central Bureau of Investigation: should it be brought under the Lokpal, and if so, in what way?
The Congress party is reportedly willing to consider an arrangement under which the prosecution wing of the CBI comes under the Lokpal, which will however have no say in the agency's investigative role or administrative functioning. Separating the two wings in this manner is a highly dubious way of addressing what needs to be done to combat corruption in high places — insulating professionals who conduct investigation and prosecution from political and bureaucratic interference. Everyone knows that in India, such interference remains the rule rather than the exception, at the Centre and in the States. If the Anna Hazare movement has fired the national imagination and turned out to be a potential game-changer, it is because it has made a strong and effective Lokpal a synonym for a truly independent and proactive mechanism to go after the corrupt at all levels. In a country where organisations such as the CBI and the State police forces come under apparently irresistible pressure to follow the diktats of their political masters, the implications for the rule of law are plain. There is no need to concur with every demand of the Anna Hazare movement in order to recognise that it has presented 'rising' but 'flailing' India with a rare opportunity — to break the politician-bureaucrat-corporate nexus that enables corruption to neutralise, undermine, and mock at the rule of law under the Constitution. Bringing into existence a strong and effective Lokpal must not be held up any longer — and the insitutionalisation of comparable Lokayuktas at the State level must follow. It is absolutely vital to liberate the CBI and the anti-corruption wings of the State police forces from political control. Rising India must seize the moment.