Jaankari, Bhagidari, Sunwai, Karyavai.

Objectives:

A set of concurrent measures are required to empower citizens to hold the government accountable and ensure meaningful public participation in governance.

The components of an effective public accountability and participation framework include: a strong right to information (RTI) regime which empowers citizens to access relevant information; a Prevention of Corruption Act, which comprehensively defines corruption and provides for an independent mechanism for investigation and prosecution in cases of corruption; independent and empowered anti-corruption ombudsman – Lokpal and Lokayuktas; an effective whistleblower protection law; a statutory mechanism which guarantees people the right to timebound redress of grievances in a decentralized manner; a legal framework for pre-legislative consultation that gives citizens the opportunity to meaningfully participate in the process of making laws and policies that affect them; a statutory framework to empower citizens to monitor and undertake social audits of government programs.

While in some cases enactment of appropriate laws is required, in others where relevant laws already exist, specific measures to ensure proper implementation are  needed.  In the last 5 years, regressive amendments have been made to several anti-corruption legislations like the Lokpal law and the Prevention of Corruption Act. There is an urgent need to roll back these regressive changes and ensure robust implementation.

There have been repeated efforts by the government to undermine institutions of accountability and undermine their autonomy. Legislative changes, where necessary, need to be adopted to ensure that institutions like the CBI and CVC can function independently, without government interference or control.

Action points

1.1 Set up the Lokpal in a transparent manner, in keeping with the spirit of the law. Appropriately amend the Lokpal & Lokayuktas Act, 2013 to: modify the composition of the selection committee to provide for the leader of the single largest party in opposition in the Lok Sabha to be a member, in the absence of a recognised leader of opposition; roll back regressive amendments made to the law which diluted provisions related to asset disclosure; provide for setting up of Lokayuktas in states with the same framework as the Lokpal at the centre; vest administrative control of the anti-corruption wing of the CBI in the Lokpal.

1.2 Operationalise the Whistle Blowers Protection Act, passed in 2014, by promulgating appropriate rules and ensure that the regressive Whistle Blowers Protection (Amendment) Bill, 2015 is not enacted.

1.3 Enact the Grievance Redressal Bill (Right of Citizens for Time Bound Delivery of Goods and Services and Redressal of their Grievances Bill, 2011), which lapsed with the dissolution of the Lok Sabha in 2014, to provide for an accessible, decentralized and responsive system for time-bound redress of citizens’ grievances in the states and at the centre, to empower people to realize their rights and entitlements.

1.4 Amend the Prevention of Corruption Act to undo the regressive amendments made to the law in 2018 by: removing requirement of prior sanction of government to enquire/investigate into or prosecute cases of corruption; restoring offence of abuse of position by a public servant to benefit any person, irrespective of the element of bribery; providing protection to those who come forward to report bribery; and making it an offence if a public servant obtains a pecuniary advantage for any person where there is no possible/reasonable justification of public interest or for malafide reasons.

1.5 Strengthen the Right to Information regime by: ensuring timely and transparent appointments of information commissioners; setting up empowered taskforces in all states and the centre to monitor mandatory proactive disclosures; withdrawing regressive amendments to the RTI Act proposed in 2018.

1.6 Enact a law to provide an institutional framework for pre-legislative consultation to ensure transparency and public participation in the process of making laws and policies.

1.7 Strengthen independence of institutions of oversight- CBI, CVC, CAG etc. by appropriately amending the relevant laws to: ensure a balanced and independent selection committee; transparency in the short-listing and selection process; and mandatory cooling off period post-retirement, including in some cases debarment from holding any government office.

1.8 Enactment of a social audit legislation (along the lines of guidelines approved by CAG) to provide a mechanism for citizen oversight to ensure that programmes meant for the welfare of citizens are implemented in an effective, efficient and judicious manner.