At a time when corruption is spreading its tentacles, it is important to have strong anti-corruption measures covering the Prime Minister and the judiciary, as India does not have an effective mechanism to combat corruption, R. Balasubramaniam, founder, Swami Vivekananda Youth Movement, has said.
Taking part in a meet-the-press programme held at the Dharwad Media Club here on Tuesday, he said while many Prime Ministers faced allegations of being involved in large-scale irregularities, the judiciary too was not free from the charges of corruption.
Hence, it was necessary to include it under the ambit of the Lokpal, he said.
However, it was acceptable to leave the Prime Minister out of its ambit if the Union Government made the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) an independent commission and drafted the judicial accountability Bill.
The CBI Act was strong but the agency was weak as it had to function at the mercy of the Government with no independent status or financial autonomy.
Likewise, under the existing provisions, it was required to get the permission of the Supreme Court to prosecute High Court judges.
But out of 20 such requests, permission was granted only in one case. Debate over the Kolkata High Court judge Soumitra Sen's impeachment motion in the Rajya Sabha recently had brought to light the corruption in judiciary, Mr. Balasubramaniam said.
Although the Prevention of Corruption Act existed, it was not effective in combating corruption. Persons like the former Union Minister A. Raja, who had been detained under the provisions of this Act, could get a maximum punishment of seven years' imprisonment. There was no provision to recover the money he earned illegally, causing huge losses to the Government, Mr. Balasubramaniam said.
Civil society never questioned the supremacy of the Parliament, which was the sole law-making body. But it was trying to get a strong anti-corruption Bill passed by pressuring the Parliament through the people's movement. On certain occasions, the Parliament too had come under the scanner.
For instance, Mr. Balasubramaniam said, in 1997 it had passed 17 Bills, including the amendment of the Prevention of Corruption Act, without debate in 12 minutes. But the amended Bill did get through the Rajya Sabha. If it happened, it was not possible to put Mr. Raja behind bars, he said.
About the demands of Anna Hazare, he said a Lokpal at the Central level, along with a Lokayukta at the State level, should be commissioned. So far, only 13 States in India have a Lokayukta.
The Centre wanted the Prime Minister to chair the selection committee. However, civil society demanded that the selection committee should be insulated from political pressures through a multi-tier selection process.
Moreover, all actions of the MPs, inside and outside Parliament, should be covered under the Act, he said.