Bill to eliminate corruption does not go far enough, say Indian activists and lawyers

Monday, August 8, 2011

A bill to eliminate corruption has been introduced into the lower house of India's parliament, but critics including lawyers and human rights activists are skeptical of the measures contained.

The Draft Lokpal Bill, introduced into parliament on Thursday, seeks to establish an ombudsman, or Lokpal, to investigate wrongdoing by government and officials. It comes after decades of campaigning against government corruption and the hunger strike of anti-corruption activist Anna Hazare earlier this year.

But the bill has been heavily criticized by Indian activists and lawyers who claim that it does not meet the needs of the people and will not free the country from corruption.

The exemption of the prime minister and other members of parliament from being investigated will prevent it from working successfully, they argue. "There is no substance in the discussion that the prime minister should be out of the Lokpal Bill," a judge on the Supreme Court said on Wednesday, speaking outside his official capacity.

Following his hunger strike in April, Hazare pushed Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to re-introduce the Lokpal Bill into Parliament. But he has condemned its current form calling it "a cruel joke." Hazare will again protest to have the draft bill revised and changed. "I will start my hunger strike from August sixteenth," he said.

Prakash Karat, general secretary of the Marxist Communist Party, yesterday said that the bill will set up "a very weak Lokpal – a Lokpal that has no effective powers". He also said that allowing government officials to appoint the Lokpal would affect its independence.

After meeting with lawyers of the Allahabad High Court Friday, members from India Against Corruption, a citizen's movement, said that the lawyers agreed that the introduced Lokpal Bill would not get rid of corruption in India.

Mark Dummit, from The BBC, said that there is no guarantee that the bill will be passed. Past attempts have been denied by the upper house of Parliament since 1969.