Anti-cor­rup­tion law pledged

Southasia - - Briefing -

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. ◆

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