`Mantri-to-santri` idea faces practical problems

Will the proposed Lokpal be able to handle more than 100,000 complaints of corruption cases lodged mostly against lower level staff every year?

New Delhi: Will the proposed Lokpal be able
to handle more than 100,000 complaints of corruption cases
lodged mostly against lower level staff every year?

Members of the civil society in the Lokpal Bill drafting
committee have made demands that could lead to the proposed
anti-corruption watchdog dealing with a humongous amount of
complaints but officials feel it can`t handle such volumes.

"Every year, more than 100,000 complaints of corruption
are registered across the country against government
officials, mostly lower-level staff like clerks and peons. If
the suggestion of `mantri to santri` is included in the
Bill, it will be practically impossible for the Lokpal to
handle each and every case," a highly-placed official, who did
not want to be quoted, said.

These corruption cases mostly relate to food grains
distributed under PDS, making of ration cards, issuance of
driving licences, birth and death certificates, clearance of
pension papers etc.

Though there are various authorities to deal with such
cases under the Prevention of Corruption Act, civil society
members have been insisting that all corruption cases should
be handled by the Lokpal, dismissing the suggestion of the
government that only corruption cases against joint secretary
and above level officers should be given to Lokpal.

Independence of judiciary is protected by the
Constitution but if the judiciary is brought under Lokpal, as
demanded by the Anna Hazare team, it would affect the
functioning of the higher judiciary for which Constitution
has to be amended, the official feels.

"Judiciary is one of the pillars of democracy and
Constitution guarantees its independence," the official said.

If the Prime Minister is brought within the ambit of
Lokpal, whenever there is a complaint against him or her, he
or she will have to resign to ensure impartiality of the probe
or else there would be allegation that the Prime Minister may
influence the witnesses or that witnesses would be afraid of
giving testimony against the Prime Minister.

If such a situation arises whenever there is a complaint
against the Prime Minister, he may have to resign to be
impartial and there would be instability at the Centre, the
official feels.

Another suggestion that CBI and CVC should be brought
under Lokpal also has not found favour with the government
since both the organisations have different responsibilities
and both are working as key arms of the government against
corruption. Bringing CBI and CVC under Lokpal will give a big
blow to the government`s existing mechanism, he said.

Civil society members want to make Lokpal as the `fourth
pillar` of democracy despite the fact that it would be
accountable to none.

The proposal to empower Lokpal with all administrative
and disciplinary powers again has not find favour within
government. At present, if any official is involved in any
wrong doing, action is initiated by the respective ministry or

But if such powers are removed, no action could be taken
by the government against errant officials and a decision from
Lokpal may come after months, if not year, later.

No Member of Parliament will support a bill which does
not give him or her guarantee or the privilege of protection
for what he or she does inside the House.

In such circumstances, it would be difficult for the
government to pass a bill in Parliament with some of the
features being campaigned for by the civil society
representatives, the official said.


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