Fighterization of Government

The problem with the proposed Jan Lok Pal bill is that it’s highly personality dependent. Given the kind of powers they want vested in the Lok Pal, it is clear that the proponents of this bill (Anna Hazare and co.) have simply assumed that a “good and incorruptible person” will occupy this post. What they don’t seem to have considered is that governments usually mess up in such appointments and it’s not guaranteed that a “good and incorruptible person” will always occupy this post. And that for that precise reason it’s dangerous to create an institution whose performance is highly dependent on the person occupying the post.

I’m reminded of two “high offices” to which people are appointed by the Central Government. Both these offices have gained prominence due to their occupation by high-quality people who did much to enhance the stature of this office, but have been undermined later by the government (UPA 1 and UPA2 in this case) appointing people with shady backgrounds to this post.

The first is the office of the Chief Election Commissioner. While this post has existed since the time of the first general election, the office was brought to prominence by former CEC TN Seshan. He was followed by a few other respectable gentlemen (James Michael Lyngdoh comes to mind). But then who did the UPA appoint to this post? Congress crony Navin Chawla, who in his earlier avatar as an IAS officer had been indicted by court as being “unfit to hold public office”.

The other case refers to the Central Vigilance Commissioner. By definition, this is a vigilance office and one of the implicit duties of this job is “vigilance”, which implies action against corrupt practices. You can think of this post as being a sort of a “mini Lok Pal” (for bureaucrats only, politicians being excluded). Again, when this post was created it was assumed that “honest impeccable incorruptible persons” would occupy it. And who did the UPA try to put there (before the Supreme Court struck down the appointment)? PJ Thomas, who had been indicted in a scam about 10 years ago.

There is no guarantee that people like Chawla or Thomas could come to occupy the post of the “lok pal”, which will completely undermine the purpose of the institution. I hope the thousands of people who are blindly supporting the “Jan Lok Pal bill” (and this includes you, Bharatiya Janata Party) take this little technicality to note. I exhort them to ask themselves if they’ll be ok having Navin Chawla or PJ Thomas as the Lok Pal. If they think it’s ok even if such people were to occupy the post, they can go ahead wiht their support. My assumption, though, is that most people haven’t really thought about this angle and are blindly supporting the anti-government agitations.

Coming to the title of this post, what we need is to create institutions that are not personality-dependent. We need to create institutions and systems with appropriate checks and balances such that even if people of “lesser integrity” were to occupy it, it wouldn’t be possible for them to significantly undermine the office. We need to effectively “fighterize” these posts in order to ensure that it’s not possible to sabotage them by means of a few bad men occupying them.

And the way I see it, the institution of the Lok Pal as envisaged by the Jan Lok Pal Bill (or by the government-sponsored bill for that matter) is highly personality dependent. And that is one of the reasons I’m opposed to this current Anna-Swami-Baba movement.

2 thoughts on “Fighterization of Government”

  1. The Jan Lok Pal bill actually stipulates that the Lok Pal appointments are not controlled by the govt. (the opposite is true for CVC, CBI, CEC etc.). Selection is done by: 1. Broad based selection committee with 2 politicians, four judges and two independent constitutional authorities.
    2. An independent search committee consisting of retd constitutional authorities to prepare first list.
    3. A detailed transparent and participatory selection process.
    Plus anybody can complain can seek removal of Lok Pal though courts and an independent authority. (as opposed to govt. Lok Pal where only govt. can remove Lok Pal and Lok Pal will investigate complaints against itself)
    I think there are is effort to put checks and balances in appointment and functioning of Jan Lok Pal so not sure if the personality dependent problem is real. If you think it is, next you should also campaign against the beast called corporation as they seem to be so personality dependent on the CEO!

    1. I’m not saying here that the Govt Lok Pal bill is all awesome and clean. I just don’t think the institution of LokPal will do much to curb corruption in general. And I don’t think whether the govt can remove him or the SC can is of much use. If the SC can embarrass the govt enough, the govt will be forced to remove the guy.

      And I remember the “independent search committee” committee of the JanLokPal. “2 most recent Magsaysay awardees of Indian ORIGIN” and similar such jokes – loading in favour of those agitating with Anna. even if that clause isn’t there now.. question is who appoints the search committee..

      all this does is to add to bureaucracy. What we need is less government!

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