Anti-corruption law pledged
After an all-party meeting presided by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh last month, India’s political parties have agreed that a “strong and effective” anti-corruption law should be ready before the next session of parliament, which begins this month.
India has recently been hit by a string of high-profile
corruption scandals where civil society and the government have been deadlocked over how powerful a new anti-graft ombudsman should be.
Lately, civil society members, led by activist Anna Hazare, have been pushing the government for a strong Citizen’s Ombudsman Bill (Jan Lokpal Bill) that will have the power to investigate corruption charges against the Prime Minister, senior judges and Members of Parliament, among others. The government has, however, reportedly refused to include the Prime Minister and senior judiciary under the purview of the ombudsman.
The opposition parties have criticized the government for bypassing established procedures of law-making and engaging civil society representatives in preparing the anti-corruption law. Premier Singh, however, assured that the ombudsman would have to function within the ambit of the constitution. “It has to add [to], and not detract from, the legitimate role and authority of other institutions in our democratic structure,” he said.
Hazare has threatened to resume his fast from 16 August if an effective anti-graft law was not introduced in parliament. A recent survey said corruption in India cost billions of dollars and threatened to derail growth. ◆