Sunday, 7 August 2011

India Violates UN Convention against -Demo on August 12

India Violates UN Convention against Corruption after Ratification, Demonstration in Front of United Nations on August 12

New York, NY - The government of India has prepared an Ombudsman Bill (Lokpal Bill) that has greater penalties for a complainant who is unable to prove his complaint against a public servant than the public servant who has been proven to be corrupt. In letter and spirit, the bill is designed to give greater protection to the corrupt and leave out from its purview more than 98% of the public servants in the country. This violates the UN Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) that India had ratified in May of this year and was among the last fifteen countries to ratify. Condemning this act of irresponsible governance by the Indian Government, people concerned by this development are staging a peaceful protest at Dag Hammarskjold Plaza Park, across United Nations, New York, NY from 11 am to 1 pm on Friday, August 12, 2011.

Billions of dollars of public funds that could have completely eradicated poverty and infrastructure problems in India are regularly stolen and lost every year due to corrupt government administrators and politicians who thrive in a system that has ineffective anti-corruption institutions and laws.

In the preamble to the convention, the UN notes “...illicit acquisition of personal wealth can be particularly damaging to democratic institutions, national economies and the rule of the law..”. India has been struggling with this problem for decades. UN also notes that “... with the support and involvement of individuals and groups outside the public sector, such as civil society, non-governmental organizations and community-based organizations, if there their efforts in this area are to be effective”. However, the Indian government is doing its best to minimize and even avoid the participation of people and organizations outside the government in passing and formation of the anticorruption laws.

The Lokpal Bill has been pending since 1969 and though revived on several occasions, never got enacted as law by the Indian government. After signing the UNCAC treaty the Government of India once again decided to revise the Lokpal Bill. But the question remains, “Does Lokpal Bill incorporate the national legislative requirements to enforce the norms of the UN convention against corruption”?

Below are some samples of violations between UNCAC norms and the proposed bill.

Article 2(a)(i)- UNCAC defines “Public official” as any person holding a legislative, executive, administrative or judicial office of a State Party, whether appointed or elected, whether permanent or temporary, whether paid or unpaid, irrespective of that person’s seniority. Hence can be subjected to investigation under corruption charges

But Government’s Lokpal bill excludes the Prime Minister, Judiciary, all government employees below a high rank, and all state and local government employees, leading to exclusion of more than 98% of all the public employees in the country.

Article 5(1) – “It is necessary to have coordinated anti-corruption policies that promote the participation of society and reflect the principles of the rule of law“. Article 33 – Titled as “Protection of reporting person”.

Whereas the Lokpal bill does not mention anything about whistleblower’s protection, rather will award a minimum of 2 years jail term if the complainant is unable to prove his charges of corruption against the accused public servant. This clause will strongly discourage public from reporting the wrongdoings.

Article 6(2) -– “Grant the body or bodies... the necessary independence, in accordance with the fundamental principles of its legal system, to enable the body or bodies to carry out its or their functions effectively and free from any undue influence”.

The Lokpal bill states that the Lokpal will contain four out of nine members who are not of Judicial background, however the nine members are elected by five politicians, one independent member and only three people of judicial background. Thereby if the selection of the members to the Lokpal is controlled by politicians, the efficiency of such a panel becomes questionable.

Article 13 (1) (a) – “Enhancing the transparency of and promoting the contribution of the public to decision-making processes”.

Most of the damage occurs due to the manipulations at the decision making level. There is no provision in the Lokpal Bill for making decision process more transparent.

Article 35 – “ entities or persons who have suffered damage as a result of an act of corruption have the right to initiate legal proceedings against those responsible for that damage in order to obtain compensation.”

There are no clear norms in the Lokpal bill regarding the compensation for the damage. Only the public exchequer can claim for the loss from the offender, but not the victim.

Article 8 (2) – provides that “in particular, each state party shall endeavor to apply within its own institutional and legal systems, codes or standards of conduct for the correct, honorable and proper performance of public functions”

Government bill has no provisions to force govt. departments to do their public functions (citizen’s charter that is formulated by the respective government departments).

Above mentioned violations are only a small sample and the entire bill contains several clauses to protect the corrupt rather than punish. With the Lokpal bill proposed by the government not following the most important aspects of the convention, we as concerned citizens of the world’s largest democracy are executing our duty to voice against this move of the Indian Government and seek intervention from the United Nations Office on Drug and Crime.

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