WEAKENING LOKMAT FOR LOKPAL / JAN LOKPAL MOVEMENT THEN AND NOW
The lackluster public attention to recent protest of BJP MLAs over Jan Lokpal in Delhi Assembly and thin crowds in Ramlila Maidan for Anna Hazare six day fast for Lokpal in March, 2018, invites surprise and examination when compared to public crescendo and groundswell for Jan Lokpal during 2010-2014 at Jantar Mantar and Ramlila Maidan in New Delhi and other cities of India. The contemporary public indifference to institutionalization of Lokpal is more intriguing in backdrop of repeated nudge by Supreme Court of India and sporadic murmur by a section of political class for implementation of Lokpal & Lokayukta Act 2013. The three broad reasons may explain this withering away of public support for Jan Lokpal.
Firstly, during 2010-2014 Jan Lokpal movement acted as rallying point against the lack of perceived decisive moral leadership of people occupying public offices and inability or unwillingness of executive to prevent brazen loot of public money. The intensity of anger can be gauged from the fact that caution against an overbearing constitutional body that may serve as template of pushing nation into a police state fell on deaf ears.
Secondly, some Janus faced principal actors of the movement got gradually delegitimized. Further, disillusion descended on public hope when some flag bearers of the movement attempted to channelize the popular support as vector to political power and displayed the same obnoxious political machinations for capturing and retaining political power.
Thirdly, the dawn of what celebrated political scientist Charles Lindblom eulogizes as the the `intelligence of democracy’ or cybernetic tradition of liberal democracies. The cybernetic tradition in democracy refers to course correction in public policy making made possible by reflection through electioneering process, parliamentary debates and investigations, and more recently media activism in policy making. The cybernetic tradition checks emergence or strengthening of Frankenstein institutions and individuals by providing inputs to citizens and policy makers.
The institutionalization of Lokpal in India may foster Frankenstein due to factors that may jeopardize separation of powers, disaggregation of state authority due to institutional duplication and may threaten the cybernetic tradition of liberal democracy in India. The factors are;
Firstly, the lack of parliamentary oversight as any complaint against a member or chairperson of the Lokpal will be taken cognizance of only if it is signed by at least a 100 MPs. The recent experience next door in Nepal with a constitutional authority similar to Lokpal where the impeachment motion against Chairman on charges of misconduct registered by 157 lawmakers from the main opposition and the ruling party lingered on till the Supreme Court in Nepal on 8 January 2017 disqualified him as the chief of the Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority. Further, absence of an independent body to deal with complaints of corruption against Lokpal staff may jeopardize institutional integrity.
Secondly, the act does little to strengthen Lokayukta in states that will remain weak and in some case may emerge as new outpost of corruption and graft as recently in 2016 when Karnataka Lokayukta was accused of running the corruption and extortion scam in collusion with his son.
Thirdly, the Lokpal Act stipulates that CVC located in Delhi will monitor complaints, conduct preliminary enquiries, and exercise superintendence and issue directions on investigations for nearly 28 lakh group C central government public servants. This will necessitate opening of CVC thanas in all cities spread across India!
Fourthly, the Act also provides for greater functional independence to CBI but the securing of tenure of CBI director by Supreme Court to shield him from the vagaries of demand of political masters has exposed the vulnerability of the investigating agency to personal aggrandizement. CBI recently filed cases against its two former directors on charges of scuttling probe in coal block allocation and corruption respectively.
Gladstone benignly hoped that, “the purpose of a government is to make it easy for people to do good and difficult to do evil”. A far cry in India with endemic corruption and abuse of public office, government is making it easy for people to do evil and difficult to do good. Also, there is gradual realization that great expectations often leads to great disappointments in contemporary political arena. No superhuman being or super organization can liberate laity from the accumulated oppression, exploitation and injustices of the corruption.
The prime minister is subjected to electoral scrutiny and test in democracy but, ‘Who will guard the Lokpal?’ C.S. Lewis prophetically cautioned that “Mankind is so fallen that no man can be trusted with unchecked power over his fellows…I see no men fit to be masters”.
The writer is author of “Ethics, Integrity and Aptitude in Governance” published by SAGE Publications, 2018. Views are strictly personal.
He is also the FACULTY for ETHICS @ CHROME IAS ACADEMY.