Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh’s opening remarks at the all party meet on the Lokpal bill:
“I welcome all of you to this All Party meeting on the Lokpal bill. I am grateful to you for having found the time to participate in this important meeting.
The enactment of a strong Lokpal bill has attracted a lot of attention during the past few months. As you know, we constituted a joint drafting committee consisting of five Union Ministers and five nominees of Shri Anna Hazare including himself. The committee had nine meetings. While considerable progress was achieved in evolving a consensus on many issues, a few important issues remain on which there is a divergence in our views and those of the nominees of Shri Anna Hazare. The papers circulated to you bring out these issues and my senior colleague Shri Pranab Mukherjee will elaborate on them as we go along.There is no doubt that corruption is a major issue today. It is not that we do not have legal and institutional arrangements in place to tackle corruption. In fact, we have a number of laws, like the Prevention of Corruption Act, the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, the Central Vigilance Commission Act, the Right to Information Act etc. which empower citizens to have access to information and which provide for stringent action against delinquents. However, there is a feeling that the institutional arrangements in place are not strong enough to ensure that the guilty, especially those occupying high positions, are brought to book swiftly and given deterrent punishment.
I must make it clear at the outset that we, in government, are committed to the enactment of a Lokpal Act, which provides for a strong, effective and quick institutional arrangement for tackling corruption in high places. We are also committed to bringing the bill before Parliament in the coming Monsoon Session. However, it is important that such an institutional arrangement enjoys the support of as large a section of people as possible and that there is the widest possible consensus regarding the bill. We have convened this meeting in this background. We are looking forward to a free and frank discussion on contentious issues so that your valuable views could be taken into account while presenting a suitable bill in Parliament.
I must also add that while a good law and a strong institution are necessary to tackle the problem of corruption, these alone would never suffice. Along with these, we need to focus on simplifying procedures, reducing discretion, eliminating arbitrariness and increasing transparency in the way government functions. It has been our experience that whenever such institutional changes have been made, both the opportunity for and the incidence of corruption have been reduced dramatically. We are focussed on this process and we propose to pursue this with vigour and speed.
Finally, we have to keep in mind that whatever arrangement we propose has to be for the larger good of our society and our country. The institution of the Lokpal has to work in harmony with other institutions and laws and it has to function within the framework of the basic structure of our Constitution. It has to add to and not detract from the legitimate role and authority of other institutions in our democratic structure. The Constitution provides for an intricate system of checks and balances and the new institution of Lokpal has to find an appropriate place in that matrix.
I look forward to your views and suggestions on the Lokpal bill.”