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Good laws, institutions do change incentives if they are designed well: Dr Jayaprakash Narayan on Lokpal

Updated: February 4, 2013, 5:56 PM IST
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Good laws, institutions do change incentives if they are designed well: Dr Jayaprakash Narayan on Lokpal
Dr Jayprakash Narayan joined IBNLive readers for an interaction on the new Lokpal Bill draft.

Dr Jayaprakash Narayan is a physician by training who went into the Indian Administrative Service in the aftermath of the Emergency and failure of the Janata Experiment. He was a topper in the IAS exam. During the 16 years of distinguished public service in various capacities, he acquired a formidable reputation in the State of Andhra Pradesh. He is the founder and the President of Lok Satta Party. He is well known for his role in bringing electoral reforms and the Right to Information (RTI) act. Dr Jayprakash Narayan joined IBNLive readers for an interaction on the new Lokpal Bill draft.

Q. Is this in any way better than whatever tools we have? Asked by: S ESHWAR

A. Each law and institution is a step forward. There is no room for cynicism of despair. This lokpal bill is a big step forward. But as I said before, we need to address the other issues, Lokayukta, ACBs, Ind prosecutors etc., and many more things are needed: service guarantee with citizen charters, real police reforms, judicial reforms like National Judicial Commission, Indian Judicial Service, and procedural improvements, and most of all electoral reforms - in particular change of the electoral system to make ethical politics sustainable, and to encourage the best and brightest to play a positive role. India has achieved a lot over the past 65 years. We also under performed in many areas. Better India can be built only on the foundations of the past. We must be mindful of the unfinished tasks. energetic, purposive , wise action is needed. But apoplectic, knee-jerk reactions will not improve our democracy. We cannot build a better future by hating politics and all politicians. We have to create the right kind of incentives at every level - politicians, bureaucratic, judges, and citizens - and create a sensible system of rewards and risks. Most of all we must make ethical politics sustainable. Today thanks to the electoral system, honesty and survival in public office are increasingly incompatible. Therefore, politician bashing must give way to creating better politics and reforms to electoral system to make it hospitable to best and brightest Indians to participate creatively and constructively. We must once again build a system in which the finest leaders like Gandhi, Ambedkar, Nehru, Patel Azad and Sarojini Naidu can emerge and play a leading role. Such potential exists among the young people of India. We need an electoral system to mold them into fine leaders and to elevate them to high office. If we channelize our energies creatively, we can surely accomplish this transformation soon.

Q. Dear Sir, Along with political corruption now we are plagued by religious corruption where some religious institutions with support from fringe elements are occupying significant space in the electoral politics to the discomfort of secular democracy. Can this also be taken forward along with fighting political corruption through legislatures? Asked by: Suhas M

A. Lokpal is not a panacea for all these problems. The present criminal laws including IPC and CrPC are adequate to meet these challenges.

Q. Dr. JP first of all I am a great admirer of your honest view on any topic. Do you think government is not letting the freedom of CBI intentionally with some wrong motive or it is something else. Because I am sure most of the Indians at present wants the autonomy of CBI, then why the Govt. is not in the mood to do so? Asked by: Nityanand Jha

A. There will always be a tendency on the part of those in power not lose control. This is a universal trait. But in this case, there are other issues. We already have a CVC law enacted in 2003, and CBI functions broadly under CVC's supervision. All transfers and postings are to be made by a CVC led committee. Now CBI director is sought to be appointed by a high powered committee of PM, CJI and Leader of Opposition. When existing institutions are functioning, we should try and improve the outcomes, rather than starting de novo each time and destroying institutions. In respect of CBI, while many concerns are genuine, they are based on inadequate understanding of institutional framework.

Q. Will a national level anti-corruption body formed under proposed Lokpal bill be implementable at village administration levels ? Don't we need some strong local anti-corruption bodies administered by 2nd or 3rd tiers of government? Asked by: Viswesh

A. We require strong Lokayukta, ACB under lokayukta's control in states, District Ombudsmen under Lokayukta's control with jurisdiction over local governments. With these minimal requirements if states enacts laws, then we can curb corruption at the village and municipality level. In addition, we need service guarantees law applicable to the Union and States. At the request of the Parliamentary committee, Loksatta has drafted a bill integrating these services with electronic delivery of services. In all likely hood such a law will be enacted in the next parliament session. This law will be even more important in curbing corruption on a day to day basis, and reducing harassment in delivery of services.

Q. In the latest amendments approved by the Union Cabinet, the recommendation of the Select committee "seeking approval of Lokpal for transfer of officers of CBI investigating cases referred by Lokpal" was rejected citing the reason that it could affect the smooth functioning of the CBI. How can it affect the smooth functioning of CBI? Don't you think the Govt. can pressurize the investigating officers to toe the line or get rid of no-nonsense officers by misusing the power of 'transfer'? Asked by: Sudeep Talapaneni

A. In reality, this is not a big issue. CBI functions broadly under CVC's jurisdiction. CVC itself is appointed by a high powered committee including opposition leader. The Supreme court held that CVC cannot be appointed by brute majority when there are legitimate objections raised. Therefore, CBI, institutionally, is protected from government interference. In addition, Lokpal bill provides for disciplinary action by Lokpal over CBI personnel. These are adequate safeguards. One improvement we should consider is, CVC should be appointed by the same committee of PM, CJI and Leader of Opposition, as in case of CBI director in the present bill. That will solve most of these problems.

Q. Sir, is the current lokpal bill will have possibility for future changes towards the strengthening it? Asked by: pradeep.

A. In some respects Yes. The very important Lokayukta chapter has been deleted. And this is largely because of the faulty strategy adopted by civil society in Dec 2011. Instead of acknowledging that the bill introduced in Parliament was a decent one, it was reviled and ridiculed without any sense of strategy. The net result is, we lost the Lokayukta provision. But some of the good features Like CBI director's appointment, special courts, independent prosecution, seizure of properties .. they all have been retained.

Q. Dr JP, do u agree that the current lokpal bill passed is much weaker than the previous one? Asked by: shravan

A. In some respects Yes. The very important Lokayukta chapter has been deleted. And this is largely because of the faulty strategy adopted by civil society in Dec 2011. Instead of acknowledging that the bill introduced in Parliament was a decent one, it was reviled and ridiculed without any sense of strategy. The net result is, we lost the Lokayukta provision. But some of the good features Like CBI director's appointment, special courts, independent prosecution, seizure of properties .. they all have been retained.

Q. Hello Dr JP sir, as India is a Democratic country (as per constitution). When most of the Indians want the bill to be passed. Is there a way to raise a petition to Government with crores of signatures and tell the Governing body (central level) and order them to pass the bill ? When India is (by the people,for the people) but the decisions are made by lead politicians. How does this makes a country lead by people. Your opinions please. Asked by: Ranjit Nagubandi

A. We do not have a constitutional mechanism for people's direct participation in legislation. But, what happened in case of RTI Act and even the present Lokpal bill is widespread public participation in law making. In future, if we all start taking more healthy and intelligent interest in laws and reforms, things will surely improve.

Q. We can't repair Indian politics until we solve how to fund elections? Does the govt lokpal have any teeth to solve this problem. Asked by: karan

A. Lokpal has no jurisdiction in that. We already have a law enacted in 2003 which provides a decent framework for honest funding of parties. The problem is most expenditure is not for legitimate campaign. It is for vote buying and illegal purposes. In a poor country with FPTP system, vote buying has become endemic. We need to seriously consider Proportional Representation system in order to change incentives in politics. Mere political funding does not solve the problem.

Q. Dr. JP, The lokpal bill is surely a step forward. We have seen the lokayukhtas function similarly in a minute scale in some states. But thy have had their own challenges and have had to function with minimal resources. So much for eradication of the corrupted. Lokpal bill along with amendments to law to accommodate more powers and independance to the judicial hierarchy is something we might have to think about. Its not about how many regulatory bodies we would want to have, but more about how they can be unaffected by the pressures and threats of the corrupt individuals. A big example being the levenson enquiry into the Sun newspaper leaks scandal in UK. Even somebody as high as the Prime Minister is answerable to such kinds of regulatory body. We might not be there yet, but thinking and amendments in law along these lines are truly worth progressing. Your views are highly appreciated. Asked by: Pratyusha D

A. I agree. All these are works in progress. We must keep on enlarging the boundaries of change. At the same time, we cannot destroy all existing institutions. Instead of focusing on control of CBI, we should see how to make CVC even more independent and effective. For instance, CVC is appointed in the same manner as CBI director in the present bill, a lot of problems will be resolved. The real challenge is in States and local governments. Also, we must strengthen CBI and ACBs in terms of number of personnel, technology and equipment at their disposal and resources. It cannot happen in one day. Probably, a strong 10-year programme is needed. CBI has only 6000 personnel - only 2000 of them are investigators. This is inadequate for India. FBI is about 60,000 strong! We need to do a lot more in India.

Q. Inspite of whatever pressure we mount will the Goverment bring politicians under the purview of lokpal. What is the way ahead ? how can we make the govt do this. While coming to states where grand corruption is not a issue to people with limited awareness in urban folk is possible to achieve a strong lokayukta. Please tell us the action plan to achieve this Asked by: Vikram Prasad

A. The present Lokpal bill bring all politicians under its purview. We must not despair. If a few corrupt top politicians are jailed and their properties are confiscated, a virtuous cycle begin

Q. How does the new lokpal bill change the lives of formers? They don't know still today how to sell their crop products on reasonable prices. What's your solution? Asked by: Raghu

A. No single law solves all problems. Lokpal is merely to strengthen anti-corruption institutions at the National level. It does not even address corruption in States. Many more bricks are needed to build a strong, vibrant nation and to protect public interest.

Q. Sir do you agree with Dr Bedi that current Lokpal is strong enough to start fight against corruption. Secondly, we can organise fasts in future to force government to strengthen the Lokpal. Asked by: Vikas Rawat

A. I broadly agree. By not embracing a good bill introduced in Lok Sabha in Dec 2011, we made it easy for opponents of this law to regroup and use 'states rights' arguments to scuttle the bill. as a result we lost the Lokayukta Chapter, now we have to fight in every state. Not only Lokyaukta and strong and empowered Lokyaukta. a sense of strategy and spirit of accommodation are vital to get good outcomes. Perpetual attacks and mudslinging are not wise.

Q. When govt people are involved in corruption and when investigation agency is under that corrupt govt people... HUV can investigation goes honestly? 2G scam, coal scam, CWG scam, mining scams, all are done by big people..govt is trying to eliminate these people from investigation. Asked by: krishna

A. Independent investigation and prosecution are both critical. At present, CBI is largely under CVC's supervision. The present bill provides for appointment of CBI director in a non-partisan manner. That will certainly strengthen CBI's autonomy. The real problem is in respect of ACBs in States. ACBs, except in Karnataka, are government controlled. We must ensure Lokayukta law in each state and bring ACB under Lokayukta. We must also fight for district attorneys heading prosecution in each district for all criminal matters, drawn from the judiciary in the cadre of district judges. These reforms can be brought in at State level.

Q. As some leaders are saying, a compulsory rule that every state should have a lokayuktha is against federal structure? Why is center not taking it seriously, it's really important. Your comment on this? Asked by: Abhimanyu Reddy

A. I completely disagree. I am strong defender of states' rights. But indulging in massive corruption is not a right of the state. Art 253 fully empowers Parliament to make a law on Lokayukta in States. Sadly, politicians used the argument of states rights to delay and dilute the law. Now that Lokayuktas are not part of the Lokpal, we need to fight in every state to get a decent law on lokayukta and local ombudsmen.

Q. Dear Sir, Lokpal bill irrespective of the sweeping powers granted to it will not act by itself. People have to exercise the powers. The problem is with the incompetency, insensitivity, and and lack of accountability in people in general and political class in particular. Your comments. Asked by: Suhas M

A. As Gladstone said, the purpose of a government is to make it easy for the people to good, and difficult to do evil. Therefore, good laws and institutions do change incentives if they are designed well. But we require a network of institutions and collective, informed assertion of the public to get the best result.

Q. Dear Sir, After seeing all the major political party's showing their reluctance to bring effective Lokpal bill, does it make sense to hype so much about one bill. The key point is existing laws are not used or selectively used currently. Asked by: Suhas M

A. Lokpal will not be a panacea. But it certainly is an important step. We must not be obsessed with a label and assume that a single law will solve all problems.

Q. How does the Lokpal define corruption? Shouldn't the definition of corruption go beyond the usual exchange of favors for bribes? Does it cover the notion of "corporate corruption" caused by an unholy nexus between the ruling class and the corporations. In a country where, according to estimates, annually 12 billion $ worth illicit funds flow out of the country to various tax havens, isn't it time we take these issues seriously? Asked by: Karthik

A. The present definition of corruption in law is reasonable. the second ARC recommended adding abuse of authority and obstruction of justice. That can still be done by amending PC Act.

Q. Dr JP, (a) Would you agree that it is more important to get a 70-80% Bill passed now rather than endlessly fight over a 100% Bill? (b) that new version is close to that 70-80% (c) KEY changes you would like to see in the current version before it is passed. Asked by: Ram Ramdas

A. I agree. This bill meets many objectives at national level. Impossible best must not be the enemy of the possible good. We need to move to the next phase now.

First Published: February 4, 2013, 5:56 PM IST
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