The debate in parliament yesterday on the Lokpal Bill was fascinating. It revealed how legal eagles spar and fence over every word, comma and nuance of the Constitution to construct what they consider a proper law. Mr. Kapil Sibal and Mrs. Sushma Swaraj were at their eloquent best. The whole nation with bated breath watches how the great Lokpal debate proceeds in parliament and on the street outside. Politicians and editors argue whether there should be this kind of Lokpal Bill or that kind of Lokpal Bill.
Alas, apart from this ignorant scribe nobody argues whether there should be any Lokpal Bill at all. Do we lack laws to curb corruption? Do we lack institutions created to curb corruption? No, we lack the will to implement the laws and utilize the institutions created to curb corruption.
Our current problem is not related to law. It is related to implementing law. The challenge is to ensure that what the law tells us we actually follow. If for the sake of argument a consensus on the Lokpal Bill does finally emerge and a law is framed, what then? Will we implement it? I draw attention to the framers of the Constitution who were no less well versed in law than either Mr. Sibal or Mrs. Swaraj. Consider what after prolonged debates they finally framed and what happened to the laws they thus framed.
Article 79 of the Constitution states:
“There shall be a Parliament for the Union which shall consist of the President and two Houses to be known respectively as the Council of States and the House of the People”. Thereby the President is part of Parliament.
Article 53 (1):
“The executive power of the Union shall be vested in the President and shall be exercised by him either directly or through officers subordinate to him in accordance with this Constitution.”
“The Prime Minister shall be appointed by the President and the other Ministers shall be appointed by the President on the advice of the Prime Minister. (2) The Ministers shall hold office during the pleasure of the President.”
“It shall be the duty of the Prime Minister –
(a) to communicate to the President all decisions of the Council of Ministers relating to the administration of the affairs of the Union and proposals for legislature;
(b) to furnish such information related to the administration of the affairs of the Union and proposals for legislation as the President may6 call for; and
(c) if the President so requires, to submit for the consideration of the Council of Ministers any matter on which a decision has been taken by a Minister but which has not been considered by the Council.”
Article 86 (1):
“The President may address either House of Parliament or both Houses of Parliament assembled together, and for that purpose require the attendance of members. (2) The President may send messages to either House of Parliament, whether with respect to a Bill then pending in Parliament or otherwise, and a House to which any message is so9 sent shall with all convenient dispatch consider any matter required by the message to be taken into consideration.”
This is how the original Constitution was written. Subsequent amendments such as the 42nd Amendment were introduced to dilute the powers of the President. Nevertheless even after such amendments the substantial powers of the President as outlined remain. Contrast these laws with the actual role of the President who must dutifully read out what is prepared by the Council of Ministers, and stand like a dummy every Republic Day to salute the passing out parade. Is the problem confronting the nation therefore one of inadequate law or of inadequate implementation? For all the fiercely competing protagonists of the Lokpal Bill, I rest my case.