Within the last six years, the notion of bureaucratic corruption has been gaining increasing attention, inviting views from activists, officials and commoners alike. A milestone in this colloquy of the people, which began with the India Against Corruption movement of 2011, has been the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act of December 2013 that seeks the establishment of an independently-acting ombudsman organisation at the national level and its standardization at the state level, aimed at providing timely resolution of cases involving instances of corruption. However, despite the passage of three years since the ratification of the bill, the said organisation remains non-existent.
The Supreme Court, on November 23, castigated the government for the deferment of the amendment, stating that the Act must not be allowed to become redundant. The present impediment to the task is the absence of the Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha (belonging, by definition, to an opposition party having at least ten percent seats in the Lok Sabha), who happens to be a key member of the selection committee for the Lokpal. Though a number of other acts have been amended to accommodate the Leader of Opposition as the leader of the largest opposition party, the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act still vehemently awaits its turn.
In the light of the recent demonetization, being claimed by the government to be directed at the abatement of corruption, such delay does not bode well. It hints at a disparity between the government’s words and actions.
Shanti Bhushan, a senior advocate, on behalf of the NGO, Common Cause, has alleged that there is a lack of political will on the part of the government and his petition states, “The inaction of the government in appointing the Lokpal is arbitrary and unreasonable and hence, violates Article 14 of the Constitution.”
The Supreme Court has grilled the government. “Instead of inviting a judgment from the Supreme Court, why can’t the government bring an ordinance to speed up the selection process? Why should the government give an impression that it is not interested in Lokpal?”
Though the government defends its stand by asserting that the bill for amendment has been drafted and shall be passed in time, the lack of a specified time frame is disquieting (pun intended). Further apprehension is being expressed regarding the transparency associated with selecting the Lokpal on which a petition avers, “The panel of persons for consideration by the selection committee must be placed in public domain.”
As of now, the government continues under a watchful eye and an alignment of the word and the deed is fervently awaited.