Sept.-October 2011 
Year 18    No.160

No Lokpal without social justice 

Towards an equal opportunity anti-corruption law


We reproduce below a memorandum of demands submitted to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice by the Social Justice Forum on Lokpal (SJFL) on September 1, 2011. The demands raised in the memorandum were earlier deliberated in both houses of Parliament on August 27, 2011.

We, the members of Social Justice Forum on Lokpal (SJFL) comprising Dalits, Adivasis, other backward classes (OBCs), religious minorities, women and all those in support of the cause of these marginalised people, affirm that corruption in all its forms, expressions and ramifications has to be weeded out/ rooted out and for the same, an effective Lokpal at the centre and Lokayuktas in the states are necessary and even imperative.

It is very shameful and even shocking that corruption is omnipresent in every fabric of our power structure, especially in the inequalities that determine social, political and economic processes. Corruption in both public and private domains is a matter of great concern for all citizens, particularly Dalits, Adivasis and other marginalised communities.

We, the citizens belonging to the marginalised communities, are subjected to all forms of corrupt practices that include discrimination, exclusion and denial of access to rights, entitlements and human dignity. We believe that these are worse forms of corruption than those mentioned in various Lokpal bills. The very definition of corruption tends to ignore the forms which subjugate and further marginalise the weaker sections. Hence the definition should be widened to include all forms of discriminatory and exclusionary practices both in public and private sectors. Also, utmost care should be given to include all forms of corruption in public and private sectors in the final Lokpal Bill. Therefore we demand that corporate frauds like misappropriation of natural resources, accumulation of black money, tax evasion and negligence of corporate social accountability should be included within the ambit of the revised Lokpal Bill.

Our experience clearly indicates that law alone cannot eradicate those forms of corruption that dehumanise, discriminate and enslave people in the government as well as in the private sectors. We need to challenge and change those systems and structures that promote, justify and perpetuate corruption, especially caste-based discrimination and atrocities against Dalits and Adivasis. On the other hand, values such as social equity and equality should be promoted, strengthened and safeguarded.

There are ample evidences and instances to assert that Dalits and Adivasis are often made victims of false implications due to their social and political vulnerability and caste prejudices and perversion. Hence it is imperative that there should be adequate legal and other safeguards in the bill to protect the interests and sovereignty of Dalits, Adivasis, OBCs and religious minorities.

Hence we demand that the revised draft take into account the perspectives and rightful constitutional safeguards of Dalits, Adivasis, OBCs, religious minorities and women (and their interests) and also incorporate their proportionate representation both in the Search Committee/ selection committee in the Lokpal and its investigating agencies.

The Constitution of India, framed by the founding fathers of the nation under the esteemed leadership of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar, is still the best suited document of governance with its parliamentary systems and practices. The special provisions for the protection and advancement of Dalits, Adivasis, OBCs, religious minorities and women, including the reservation system, are important tools to ensure social justice in the country. This aspect should never be sacrificed or weakened under any circumstances and for any reason whatsoever. This will amount to gross violation of all human rights laws and dictates of the inalienable qualities of humanity.

We learn that there are different versions of Lokpal bills (the Lokpal Bill by the government, the Jan Lokpal Bill by the Anna Hazare team and the NCPRI’s bill by Aruna Roy and others) under consideration. We demand that the concerns and constitutional safety net of all the marginalised communities be respected and given utmost importance and priority in drafting the anti-corruption bill.

We also urge that the various versions of the Lokpal Bill drafted by various groups, including the Jan Lokpal Bill, require detailed and elaborate discussion, debate and public scrutiny before it is enacted as law. We urge that the Lokpal Bill is a very serious issue and it should be discussed in an open and transparent manner in order to ensure the diverse opinions of all stakeholders. We believe that the Parliament and the standing committee are important constituencies in creating this space. Any hasty and haphazard decision and enactment of the bill under any pressure will certainly create a wedge in society and lead to greater damage to the cohesiveness of the nation and destroy the highly celebrated values of Indian nationalism and dearly nurtured sentiment of unity in diversity.

Therefore we demand the following measures within a specified time frame:

The government of India should:

1. Withdraw the Draft Lokpal Bill 2011 and dissolve the parliamentary standing committee set up to consider the bill.

2. Constitute a new drafting committee consisting of previous members of the drafting committee from the government and civil society groups (Team Anna) in addition to representatives of different political parties and wider civil society organisations, including representatives from scheduled castes (SCs), scheduled tribes (STs), OBCs, religious minority communities and women.

3. The revised draft adopted by the new drafting committee shall be placed before Parliament; and the Parliament can refer the revised bill to a new parliamentary standing committee for wider consultations with various groups and communities, political parties, within a specified time.

4. There should be due representation of SCs, STs, OBCs, religious minorities and women in the Lokpal search committee, in its selection committee and its investigating agencies.

5. The definition of corruption should be expanded to include corporate corruption, corruption in NGOs, corruption in the media, corruption in panchayats, municipalities, municipal corporations, other autonomous local bodies and the judiciary, the discriminatory and exclusionary practices suffered by SCs/STs/OBCs and religious minorities, exploitation of labour like bonded labour, forced labour, and all other forms of exploitation and discrimination.

6. Corruption should also include non-utilisation of funds/ mis-utilisation of funds, diversion of funds meant for scheduled castes under the Special Component Plan (SCP) and Tribal Sub-Plan (TSP).

7. Corruption should also include the discriminatory practices observed in educational institutions, from primary education to higher and professional education. Denial of reservation, fraudulence in affirmative action, against SCs/STs/OBCs and religious minorities, ill-treatment of students from the above communities and threat to their safety and interest in and outside such educational institutions should also be treated as corrupt practice and stringent action should be taken against the perpetrators of such practices, institutions and teachers/ professors who practise, encourage others to practise and also neglect such injustice when brought to their notice.

8. In the present system, employees belonging to SCs, STs, OBCs and religious minority communities are victimised due to prejudices against them. We therefore demand that the complaints received against persons belonging to these communities should be first sent for vetting to the constitutional bodies established for the protection of these groups.

(The Social Justice Forum on Lokpal is a platform of about 40 grass-roots organisations representing the scheduled castes, scheduled tribes, other backward classes, religious minority communities and women; Email: [email protected].)

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