India Inc., jurists call for well-crafted Lokpal bill


Mumbai : Prominent corporate leaders and jurists in Mumbai stressed the need for an urgent passage of a “well-crafted” Lokpal bill by parliament.

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In an open letter, the signatories said, “This draft Lokpal bill is intended to address episodic corruption, but is unlikely to have any significant impact on the day-to-day corruption, which is insidious and demeaning.”

The common individual seems to have no recourse in daily life, which is vitiated by corruption in almost every sphere of normal dealings, the letter said.

The signatories include corporate leaders Jamshyd Godrej, M. Narasimham, Yezdi Malegam, Anu Aga, A. Vaidyanathan, Bimal Jalan, Keshub Mahindra, Deepak Parekh, N. Vaghul, Azim Premji, Nachiket Mor and Ashok Ganguly.

Eminent jurists Sam N. Variava and B.N. Srikrishna have also signed the letter.

“Almost every interface of the common man with public officials is impaired by corruption, especially in the most routine transactions, such as grant of ‘pattas’, issuing of birth/death certificates, utility connections and availing of entitlements amongst several others,” they pointed out.

Similar cases of continuous daily harassment are widely faced by small and medium scale enterprises (SMEs) and numerous services and manufacturing entities.

The group has also made suggestions on issues and called for “urgent attention and action” to ensure reforms are effective and make a positive and perceptible impact on citizens’ day-to-day life.

The suggestions include urgent overhaul of several antiquated laws to reflect contemporary realities pertaining to land, judicial, electoral and police reforms.

While key recommendations and draft legislation on most of these issues are already in public domain, it is imperative that legislative reforms be constructively and constitutionally debated, it said.

The group also referred to “a strong nexus between certain corporate, politicians, bureaucrats and power brokers”, which poses one of the greatest threats to the Indian economy.

In this context, they pointed out that in July 2011, the UK has enacted the Bribery Act, 2010, which makes it illegal “to offer and receive” and extends culpability to the highest levels in an accused corporation.

Speaking of judicial reforms, they said that best crafted legislations will not cleanse the system unless effective remedial mechanisms are put in place.

“This, however, is not possible given the acute backlog of cases pending in the courts, estimated at over 3.1 crore. India has 10 judges per million population compared to 50 in the UK and 107 in the US,” they said.

While supporting the need for environmental protection, the group said it should be recognised that there is an impasse on environmental clearances which continues to delay several investment proposals and hamper economic growth.

Among various measures, they called for considering the introduction of an on-line auction process for allocation of natural resources, which will provide the much needed transparency and prevent discretionary and irregular practices.

Supporting Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s statement that economic progress must not be hijacked by internal dissensions, the group said that India’s focus must remain steadfast on economic reforms to ensure adequate job creation.

These national challenges cannot be solved by urban protests and posturing, it stressed.

They reiterated that through urgent and concerted action by elected leaders of our country, positive transformation can begin to be achieved.