Bangalore International Centre had arranged a panel Discussion on “Jan Lokpal Bill” on Monday, 23rd May, 2011 at 6:30 pm. The discussion was chaired and moderated by Justice S. Rajendra Babu, Former Chief Justice of India. The Panelists for the discussion were Jai Parkash, Former Director General, Bureau of Investigation, Karnataka Lok Ayukta, and Retired DGP; Sugata Srinivasaraju, Associate Editor, South, Outlook; Ashwin Mahesh, Co-founder and Co-editor, India Together, and Coordinator, SAAKU; and Aditya Sondhi, Practising Lawyer and Law Teacher.
While the panelists were unanimous about the need for an enactment to check and combat corruption, there were differences about some of the suggestions made by representatives who are not parliamentarians. Mr. Sugata Srinivasaraju was of the opinion that to expect the Lok Pal to act like a Superman to cleanse the society of all corruption is unrealistic and is indicative of a pathetic dependence on the capabilities of an individual, rather than on the system. He was also not in favour of the Judiciary being brought within the purview of the Lok Pal. He saw the entire approach of the Civil Society Activists as an urban and middle class- dominated phenomenon in which the rural population had little or no role. Mr. Aditya Sondhi also agreed that Judiciary should be kept out of the jurisdiction of Lok Pal. He was critical about the suggested provision to select the Lok Pal on the basis of a “demonstrable record” in fighting corruption which, he felt, was not only vague and populist, but also undesirable as it would unduly limit the pool of individuals for selection. He also questioned the practicability of the suggestion to have video recordings of the meetings of the Selection Committee. Among the concrete suggestions he made for incorporation in the bill were: a) vesting the Lok Pal with the power to issue injunctions to regulate the manner of reporting cases and complaints to the Lok Pal by the print and electronic media; b) vesting the Lok Pal with the power to grant exemplary costs against sensational and unfair reportage of cases and in cases of malafide, motivated and frivolous complaints; and c) better provisions for witness protection. Mr. Jai Parkash suggested that the Lok Pal should have jurisdiction only over the Executive and not over Legislative or Judiciary. He also felt that several amendments are required in the Prevention of Corruption Act (1988) and Section 438 of the Criminal Procedure Act to make the Lok Pal more effective.
It was a well- informed and well- debated discussion in which the audience took an active part.