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Make Lokpal independent but accountable, say former officials

Sunday December 18, 2011 08:04:50 PM, George Joseph, IANS

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New Delhi: As India awaits the Lokpal, prominent former bureaucrats and police officials say an independent and efficient anti-graft ombudsman will be a step forward in efforts to curb corruption. But the institution should be accountable to parliament and the judiciary.

"Lokpal should be an executive body, not a judicial one. It should be accountable to parliament and the judiciary," Prabhat Kumar, a former cabinet secretary and currently president of NGO Initiative of Change Centre for Governance (ICCfG), told IANS.

Others stressed that Lokpal should be one among various initiatives to tackle corruption.

"The initiation of Lokpal should coincide with wider police and administrative reforms as deliberated at different national forums and directed by the Supreme Court," former Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) chief P.H. Hormis Tharakan told IANS over phone from Bangalore.

The final shape of the anti-graft set-up is awaited as the Lokpal Bill, which has seen major disagreements between the government, opposition and civil society leaders over key provisions, is to be taken up by the union cabinet Monday and by parliament later.

"Corruption is a major issue in our country. Lokpal may be one of the measures to tackle it," former Jharkhand governor and former Delhi Police chief Ved Marwah told IANS.

"Like many others in the country, I have not studied the proposals in detail and am waiting for the final outcome on the law. But I also share the public concern about corruption. Hope Lokpal may be one of the measures," said Marwah, who has also served as chief of the elite National Security Guard (NSG), advisor to the Jammu and Kashmir governor, and governor of various insurgency-affected states in the northeast.

Stressing that "corruption is in the mind of the people", Surjit Das, a former chief secretary of Jharkhand, said no institution could eliminate corruption completely.

"At the most, we may be able to control it. That is what should be attempted through Lokpal," he added.

Das said that the removal of corruption is a wider socio-political issue which warrants electoral reforms and value education.

"We have to re-invent a new system where corruption is looked down upon and consumerist urges do not push us to corrupt practices," he added.

Prabhat Kumar said the successful functioning of an independent ombudsman in at least 10 countries, which includes Indonesia and South Korea, gives similar hope for India too.

A new institution will not harm the country, he said. "But its success depends on the effectiveness. It should be properly regulated and accountable."

The ICCfG had given suggestions to the standing committee on Lokpal, including for bringing the prime minister under the new legislation with safeguards, he added.

Noting that Lokpal should have investigative and prosecution powers, Prabhat Kumar said the debate whether the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) or particular wings of the CBI should be under the ombudsman are just details to be worked out.

"The core issue is that we have to have an over-arching anti-corruption body," the former cabinet secretary added.

Tharakan said the current awareness among the public calls for an anti-graft institution.

"Several developed countries have it. We should also have it in our own model," he said.
On the issue of CVC and the CBI, Tharakan, who has also been a former police chief of Kerala, said: "The independence of CVC and CBI should be handled by the general directives of the Supreme Court."

While the funds and logistics of these bodies are provided by the government, the independence of these institutions should be ensured by the officials in them not being allured by any post-retirement postings, he said.

(George Joseph can be contacted at





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