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Mainstream, VOL XLIX, No 40, September 24, 2011

Resolving Differences on Lokpal

Umbrella-Type Comprehensive Law Can Provide The Solution

Wednesday 28 September 2011, by Bharat Dogra

Recently a lot of discussion has taken place about how the differences on the Lokpal legislation can be resolved.

One possible solution which should be seriously explored as a part of such a sincere process is to prepare a comprehensive ‘umbrella-type’ legislation in which a single bill will have five sub-bills.

The first of these will set up a Lokpal to deal with high-end corruption (including PM) while at the same time placing a strengthened, improved CVC (Central Vigilance Commission) under the Lokpal for covering middle and lower-level bureaucracy.

The second sub-bill will set up strong Lokayuktas in all States to cover high-end corruption and at the same time set up State Vigilance Commissions in all States to cover middle and lower bureaucracy of the State Government. For this urgent consultations with State Governments should start immediately.

The third sub-bill will set up a decentralised, bottom-to-top grievance redressal system including citizens’ charters and time-bound public service delivery systems.

The fourth sub-bill will set up corruption-curbing systems in the context of the judiciary and establish its accountability and standards.

The fifth sub-bill will seek to provide protection to whistleblowers and RTI activists.

All the sub-bills should be considered together at the same time (and hopefully passed by the Parliament) as part of an overall comprehensive umbrella-type Lokpal law.

Such a proposal can help to resolve the existing differences of activists and civil society groups. Some of them have demanded a single legislation to cover corruption and grievances from top-to-bottom while other have insisted that we need different laws and institutions for meeting different kinds of needs at various levels. The umbrella-type legislation proposed above can help to reconcile such differences.

Another plus point of this umbrella-type legislation is that various long awaited laws can be passed at the same time. Being a part of the same overarching law, there is no other way except to pass all of these at the same time.
The third advantage of this proposal of an umbrella-type legislation is that it will be able to incorporate all the three provisions of the parliamentary resolution passed on August 27.

Last but not the least, the proposal made above can be implemented without the government having to recall its three pending bills on Lokpal, judicial accountability and whistleblowers’ protection. The draft of the grievance redressal legislation just prepared by the union government can also be included in this umbrella legislation. All these three bills, in an improved/amended form can become parts of the umbrella-type comprehensive law proposed above.

Bharat Dogra is currently a Fellow at the Institute of Social Sciences, New Delhi.

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