ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

Articles By Sriram Panchu

Repairing the Lokpal Bill

There are many problems with the Lokpal Bill 2011, the most serious being the lack of independence to the anti-corruption wing of the Central Bureau of Investigation. There have been problems as well with the civil society approach to the negotiations with the government. Civil society should now put down the non-negotiable demand of a Lokpal with full control over investigation and prosecution, and for one law to operate nationally. However, it should accept differential methods of dealing with lower level corruption and citizen charters, giving the Lokpal a supervisory and advisory role in these areas.

Lokpal: Where Do We Stand Now, and How We Got Here

Both civil society and government have travelled a long way on the Lokpal Bill. The official Bill is a much improved version of earlier efforts. Most of the key elements for a strong and effective law are in place. What remain are differences on whether the Lokpal should cover all civil servants, at the centre and the states, and whether the office should also redress public grievances. A huge Lokpal will lose focus and itself become an oppressor; a more nuanced approach is thus called for. Civil society groups need to bridge their differences and carry the Bill through its last stage.

Opportunity at Hand to Tackle Corruption

The draft Lokpal Bill of the government will make for a poor mechanism to punish corruption. On the other hand, the text put out by the Anna Hazare team meets in substantial measure the requirements necessary for a body that can effectively tackle corruption in high places. However, while the government bill is on the spot in seeking to cover only corruption at the top, the Hazare text loses focus by attempting to deal with too many things - bribery, maladministration and misconduct. Where the NGO bill gets it right is in outlining the processes, powers and jurisdiction of the Lokpal. It should now be possible to work towards establishing a constitutionally valid, efficient, workable and sustainable legal mechanism to combat corruption.

Bhopal Gas Leak Case: Lost before the Trial

The chronicle of Bhopal in the courts is of a case doomed to failure. In step after step from that fateful night of 2 December 1984 onwards, the government, legal luminaries and, even on occasion, the Supreme Court of India failed the victims of Bhopal, and one could even say failed the test of justice. Bhopal is also the collective failure of all of us - the central and state governments, the Bar, the Bench, commentators, media, and the public. If half the furore on display now had been there earlier, it is likely that corrective steps would have been taken to rectify matters. The implications of the Bhopal process for liability in case of a nuclear accident are obvious.

Free and Fair Election Commissioners?

A number of institutions and actors are responsible for the ugly controversy on the position of Election Commissioner Navin Chawla. The Supreme Court for not giving a clear view on the power of the chief election commissioner to recommend action against an EC, CEC N Gopalaswami himself for taking so long to decide on the petition seeking Chawla's dismissal and the central government for having in the first place appointed an individual, who was clearly unfit for a constitutional post. Can we expect the government to now do the right thing and restore the integrity of the Election Commission of India?