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Archive for December, 2011

The Lokpal debate: How the numbers stack up in Rajya Sabha…

December 28th, 2011 No comments

The Lokpal and Lokayuktas Bill, 2011 was passed by Lok Sabha yesterday. The Bill will be discussed next by Rajya Sabha. Unlike the Lok Sabha, where the UPA government holds a majority in the House, the composition is different in Rajya Sabha.

As on 28th December 2011, the total strength of Rajya Sabha is 243 members . The UPA has a combined strength of 95 members in the House, well below the 50% mark.  (Of course, there will be some absent members which will change the arithmetic a bit.)  The passage of the Bill thus depends on the stand taken by other political parties and their numbers in the House. Here’s how the figures stack up:

Party Numbers
Indian National Congress (INC) 71
Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) 7
Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) 7
All India Trinamool Congress (AITC) 6
Jammu and Kashmir National Conference 2
Sikkim Democratic Front (SDF) 1
Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) 1
Total UPA 95
   
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) 51
Janata Dal (United) 8
Shiv Sena (SS) 4
Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) 3
Total NDA 66
   
Communist Party of India (Marxist) 13
Communist Party of India (CPI) 5
All India Forward Bloc (AIFB) 1
Total Left 19
   
Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP ) 18
Biju Janata Dal (BJD ) 6
All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazagham (AIADMK ) 5
Samajwadi Party (SP ) 5
Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD ) 4
   
Asom Gana Parishad (AGP ) 2
Bodoland People’s Front (BPF ) 1
Indian National Lok Dal (INLD ) 1
Lok Janasakti Party (LJP ) 1
Mizo National Front (MNF ) 1
Nagaland People’s Front (NPF ) 1
Telugu Desam Party (TDP ) 4
   
Nominated 8
Independent and others 6
   
Total 243

 

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Lessons from MLAs

December 20th, 2011 2 comments

Authored by Anil Nair and CV Madhukar

PRS just concluded a workshop for MLAs from 50+ from more than a dozen states.  What an AMAZING experience this was, even though this is the sixth such workshop we have held in this past year!

This three day workshop on ‘Mastering the Budget’ was designed to help MLAs understand how to work with budget documents and numbers, find trends, understand the most critical macro numbers to track, etc. The second day of the workshop was tailored to reflect on the big thematic issues that have an impact on state finances. The Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management Act, the Goods and Services Tax, the pattern of quantum of funds flow from the Centre to the state and local governments, the 13th Finance Commission, etc. The final day was devoted to doing an inter-state comparison of states on important budget parameters, and gleaning lessons from them.

The idea for this budget workshop germinated at a previous workshop held at IIM Bangalore. The participating MLAs requested PRS to organise a special session on ‘Mastering the Budget’. So this workshop was being organised as a result of their feedback. The choice of location was easy — this was held at the National Institute for Public Finance and Policy in Delhi, which is amongst India’s foremost institutions working on state budgets and public finance issues.

Invitations were sent out to MLAs in several states. Responses started coming in within a few days, with about 70 confirmations. But there is always an uncertainty on the participation until the very last minute because elected politicians have immense demands on their time, at least some of which are unpredictable. So it was heartening to see that more than 50 MLAs came to the workshop representing 15 states — Bihar, Rajasthan, Odisha, Uttar Pradesh, Assam, Kerala, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Meghalaya, Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Gujarat, Haryana, Manipur.

The participants ranged from first time MLAs (about 50%), to a sitting Minister, a sitting Speaker, former Ministers, and senior leaders of political parties from some states. But the best part about the interaction in this workshop was that even on seemingly complex issues being discussed in the classroom, the MLAs were not mere recipients of ‘gyan’ that was being dished out. They had important questions to raise, and well articulated points of disagreement with the faculty, and brought in practical perspectives that might not have otherwise come up in the discussions. They went beyond the scope of the workshop to engage the economists on discussions on subjects like FDI in retail, state of India’s economy…

Based on our experience of several workshops with MLAs, we want to share some observations about the participating MLAs:

-         There are MLAs in every state who want to understand substantive policy issues, and are willing to invest time and energy to do so.

-         When the MLAs participate in these workshops, they choose to do so on their own, and are not compelled by anyone to do so.

-         The sessions almost always begin and end on time, even in the freezing cold mornings in the Delhi winter.

-         The MLAs are very engaged in the discussions, ask questions, and bring in their experiences into the classroom discussions.

-         They keep partylines completely out of the substantive classroom discussions, and in the rare event that some new participant mentions anything partisan, other participants quickly ask him to avoid making any such mentions.

In 2011, we have engaged with over 250 MLAs through these workshops and more. These workshops are just a starting point of what we hope will develop into a sustained, longer term engagement with MLAs on policy issues coming up in their states. In an important partnership with the Indian School of Business, Hyderabad, PRS has already conducted two workshops  at the world class facilities at the ISB campus, and is planning to hold more in 2012.

Just as PRS engages with about 300 MPs in Parliament, the hope is that more MLAs will be able to derive value from the work of PRS in the years to come, thereby making their decisions better informed.

Some feedback from MLAs from our earlier workshops can be seen here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9XlgKCp2bvs or http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=01kLLTVtJOU&feature=related or http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WA4NZqCj2xk&feature=related

 

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Lok Pal Bill: The Standing Committee’s Views

December 18th, 2011 1 comment

There are indications that the Lok Pal Bill, 2011 is likely to be taken up for consideration and passing during the current Winter session of Parliament.  The Bill was introduced on Aug 4, 2011 in the Lok Sabha after a prolonged agitation led by Anna Hazare (see PRS analysis of the Bill).  It was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice (see PRS note on Committee Systems).  The Committee submitted its report on December 9, 2011.  The report includes 10 dissent notes from 17 MPs.

(a)    Kirti Azad, Bal Apte, D.B. Chandre Gowda, Harin Pathak, Arjun Ram Meghwal, and Madhusudan Yadav.

(b)   Ram Jethmalani

(c)    Ram Vilas Paswan

(d)   Shailendra Kumar

(e)    Prasanta Kumar Majumdar

(f)     Pinaki Misra

(g)    A. Sampath

(h)    S. Semmalai

(i)      Meenakshi Natrajan, P.T. Thomas, and Deepa Dasmunshi

(j)     Vijay Bahadur Singh

Presently, the government and the Opposition are in the process of formulating their stands on various key issues such as inclusion of the Prime Minister, the lower bureaucracy and the role of the Central Investigation Bureau.  We provide a broad overview of the views of the members of the Committee on various key issues.

Unanimity on issues

On some issues, there was unanimity among the Committee members:

  • Constitutional status for Lokpal.
  • Immunity from prosecution for the MPs for any vote and speech in the House
  • Exclusion of judiciary from the ambit of the Lokpal.
  • Qualification of chairperson and Lok Pal members.
  • Selection process of Lok Pal members.
  • Lokpal should not have the powers to tap phones.

Dissent on issues

Certain members of the Committee dissented on specific issues.  In Table 1, we list the issues and the reason for the dissent.

Table 1: Recommendation of Standing Committee and dissent by individual MPs

Issues Standing Committee recommendations Points of dissent Dissenting MPs
Inclusion of Prime Minister Committee left the decision to Parliament stating that there are pros and cons to each view. -     PM should be included. 

-     PM should be brought under the Lok Pal with some exceptions for national security, foreign policy, atomic energy etc.

-     The decision to investigate or prosecute the PM should be taken by the Lok Pal with 3/4th majority.

-  Prasanta Kumar Majumdar, A. Sampath. 

-  Kirti Azad etc, Shailendra Kumar, Pinaki Misra.

 

 

 

Grievance redressal mechanism Enact separate law for a grievance redressal mechanism. Include in the Lok Pal Bill. Kirti Azad etc, Ram Jethmalani, Shailendra Kumar.
Inclusion of bureaucracy Include Group B officers in addition to Group A. -     Include all groups of govt employees. 

-     Include Group ‘C’.

-     Do not include bureaucrats.

-     Kirti Azad etc, A. Sampath. 

-     Meenakshi Natrajan etc, Shailendra Kumar, Prasanta Kumar. Majumdar, Pinaki Misra, Vijay Bahadur Singh.

-     Ram Vilas Paswan.

Lokayukta Single, central law to deal with Lok Pal and state Lokayuktas to ensure uniformity in prosecution of public servants. States should retain power to constitute Lokayuktas. -     S. Semmalai.
Private NGOs, media and corporate Include all entities with specified level of govt control or which receive specified amount of public donations or foreign donations above Rs 10 lakh. No private organsiations should be included. - Kirti Azad etc., Ram Vilas Paswan.
Composition of search and selection committees Selection Committee: In addition to PM and Speaker, it should include the Chief Justice of India, an eminent Indian unanimously nominated by the CAG, CEC and UPSC chairman and only Leader of Opposition of Lok Sabha. 

Search Committee: Mandatory to constitute. Minimum 7 members with 50% members from SC/ST, OBC, minorities and women.

 

Selection Committee: PM, Minister, LoPs of both Houses, two judges and CVC. Search Committee: CJI, CAG, CEC, Cabinet Secretary, judges of Supreme Court and High Courts. 

Selection Committee: PM, LoP in the Lok Sabha, one judge of SC and one Chief Justice of a HC, CVC, CEC and CAG. Search Committee: 10 members out of which 5 should be from civil society and 5 should be retired Chief Justice, CVC, CAG and CEC.  Half the members to be from SC/STs, OBCs, minorities or women.

-  Kirti Azad etc. 

-  Shailendra Kumar.

Removal of Lok Pal In addition to petitioning the President, a citizen should be allowed to approach the Supreme Court directly with a complaint.  If admitted, it would be heard by a 5 judge bench.  If President does not refer a citizen’s petition, he should give reasons. Investigation should be conducted by an independent complaint authority.  Heavy fines should be imposed in case of a false or frivolous complaint. Instead of the President, the Supreme Court should have power to suspend a member pending inquiry. 

 

- Shailendra Kumar.
Role of CVC and CBI CVC should investigate Group C and D employees.  Instead of Lok Pal’s investigation wing, the CBI should investigate cases after inquiry by the Lok Pal.  CBI to have autonomy over its investigation.  Lok Pal shall exercise general supervision over CBI. CBI should be under the control of the Lok Pal. 

The CBI Director should be appointed by the Lok Pal’s selection committee.

The CVC should be under Lok Pal and the SVCs under the state Lokayuktas.

-  Ram Jethmalani, Shailendra Kumar. 

-  A. Sampath.

-  Meenakshi Natrajan etc.

False and frivolous complaints Term of imprisonment should be maximum six months.  Amount of fine should not exceed Rs 25,000. 

Specifically provide for complaints made in good faith in line with the Indian Penal Code.

The term of imprisonment should not exceed 30 days. - Kirti Azad etc.
Article 311 Article 311 of the Constitution should be amended or replaced with a statute. The procedure adopted by the disciplinary authority should conform to Article 311. - Kirti Azad etc, Meenakshi Natrajan etc. 

 

Finance Lok Pal Bill states that all expenses of the Lok Pal shall be charged to the Consolidated Fund of India (no need for Lok Sabha clearance).  The Committee did not make any recommendation with regard to finances of the Lok Pal. Lok Pal’s expenses should be cleared by the Parliament. 

Lok Pal should present its budget directly to Parliament rather than through a ministry.

-  Kirti Azad etc. 

-  Shailendra Kumar.

Sources: The Lok Pal Bill, 2011; the Department Related Standing Committee Report on the Lok Pal Bill, 2011 and PRS.