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‘Objectives are the same… issue is how it is to be done’

K M Chandrasekhar speaks on a number of issues including govt’s negotiations with civil society

Written by Swaraj Thapa |
June 17, 2011 2:47:26 am

There has been an impression that the government,in trying to reach out to civil society on corruption,has ended up tying itself in knots. What is the approach?

The decision to engage was part of a considered government policy. The government’s first objective was always to try and sit across the table and discuss,whether it was with Ramdev or Anna Hazare or anybody else… because a political settlement is always better than any law and order solution. There is not much difference of opinion regarding the objective as government also wants to achieve the same objectives: elimination of corruption,removal of black money… But the issue is how it is to be done. Administratively some objectives are feasible,some are not.

Is it really possible to get back all the unaccounted money held by Indians in banks abroad?

It is not easy to identify black money. Even the countries where these accounts are parked,they would hesitate to share data. And even if they do share data,they will put some conditions including that this can be used only for tax or penalty purposes,that it will not be shared with anybody else and complete confidentiality will be maintained.

So how can it be done?

Basically we have to identify it here,where the black money has been generated. Then we have to identify where the money has gone. And then we have to establish that there is a breach of law here. Only after that we have to use the judicial processes in the other country. All these are constraints but within that,whatever can be done through tax exchanges treaties,government has been doing the maximum. The real difficulties are practical in nature.

There was criticism about not only ministers going to the airport to meet Baba Ramdev but also you as cabinet secretary being present there…

Actually,the meeting was not really intended to be held at the airport. The meeting was fixed at the new customs office,opposite Centaur Hotel. But the police on the last day said it has to be moved to the airport for security reasons. That’s how it happened. I had to be there primarily because there were a number of issues panning different departments which I had discussed with them and so instead of taking all the departments,it was better for me to be there to help the ministers. Nobody was there to receive Ramdev.

Will government functioning really be hampered if the Prime Minister is brought under the Lokpal’s ambit and allegations are levelled against him?

I don’t know how the contours of the Lokpal will finally come out. But it will be possible in present circumstances for allegations to be made against the PM which are unsubstantiated and which do not really reflect the truth. Once there is a pileup of such allegations,then it becomes very difficult. The Prime Minister is the most vulnerable. It is possible that he will have to take hard decisions that will displease certain sections of society. Now if these allegations are constantly being watched and monitored and he is under a kind of cloud,that is certainly not going to make him feel comfortable. We need a Prime Minister who can think straight and will hold full tilt on whatever is needed for the country.

There were allegations against the PMO regarding 2G. To what extent was the PM in the know?

Letters going to the Prime Minister’s Office don’t come to me. But yes,certain letters were exchanged. That still doesn’t mean that the Prime Minister really was in the know. 2G is a complicated issue,it is very technical. I can also tell that from the cabinet secretariat’s side,we get a monthly report from all concerned secretaries. We used to get a report from the IT secretary also. Such reports have to indicate whether there have been any deviation in policy. We looked at the previous reports,there was no such deviation.

During the P J Thomas controversy,it was being said that you were among those who tried to persuade him to step down as CVC.

I don’t think it’s a fair question. Personal conversations should be left alone. I have known Thomas for a very long time. He has worked with me. I think he is a man of integrity. He got into a problem at one stage; unfortunately that has been dogging him for many years. It is unfortunate that it turned out like this.

Is there a thinking in government that restructuring of ministries and departments should take place?

Yes,some marginal restructuring will help. For example,agriculture and fertiliser need to come together for more synergy. But there are also political compulsions which dictate these issues. I think there are already some recommendations made by the 2nd Administrative Reforms Commission. They wanted clustering of some of the ministries and departments.

As cabinet secretary,you initiated the Performance Management system with ministries and departments being asked to commit to a Results Framework Documents. It was opposed by some ministers…

I think it is a very good model. We are now able to quantify the work done. About 80 departments are now covered. States like Punjab and Maharashtra too have taken it up. Internationally,it is already prevalent in number of countries. But there will be no ranking. Our intention is only to see how well ministries are performing,not to categorise ministers. The minister at the end of the day has the right to ask his secretary as to how much results have been achieved. If followed on a regular basis,it (can be) an effective tool.

GOVT vs TEAM ANNA: POINTS OF DISAGREEMENT

PM under Lokpal purview

Team Anna: PM must be under purview. What if Koda or Raja become PM? No fear of an unsubstantiated complaint against PM being entertained. Full bench would first decide whether there was adequate prima facie evidence.

Government: PM must be out of purview because if any inquiry starts against PM,he would lose authority to govern and take decisions.

Judiciary under purview

Team Anna: Lokpal must have powers to decide if an FIR can be filed against a sitting judge.

Government: It would compromise the independence of the judiciary,which should be dealt with under Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill that is pending in Parliament.

Conduct of MPs within Parliament

Team Anna: Lokpal must investigate. Self-regulation has not worked.

Government: Parliament should self-regulate; only MPs’ acts outside Parliament should be covered under Lokpal.

which senior officers covered

Team Anna: Every government official must be brought under ambit.

Government: Only joint secretaries and above. For junior officers,existing mechanism under Prevention of Corruption Act.

Merger of anti-corruption wings

Team Anna: Merge CBI,CVC and all departments’ vigilance wings in Lokpal.

Government: No merger. Lokpal to have its own machinery to investigate.

Delegation of powers

Team Anna: 11-member body with quasi-judicial powers will have several officers under it. These officers would be designated authorities who too would have quasi-judicial powers.

Government: The 11-member-body as a whole or its benches will pass all orders.

Special courts

Team Anna: Lokpal should recommend,annually,the number of special courts under Prevention of Corruption Act. Recommendations would be binding on government.

Government: Lokpal may recommend but it cannot be binding because Parliament may or may not agree to sanction expenditure,courts may not appoint judges and there could be lack of infrastructure.

Financial autonomy

Team Anna: Expenses to be decided in annual meeting between PM and Lokpal chairperson. Expenses to be charged to Consolidated Fund,need not be sanctioned by any govt agency.

Government: Not possible. If it is a coalition government,it is possible the PM and the Finance Minister are from different parties; one might not agree with the other’s views.

Transfer orders

Team Anna: Lokpal should have powers to order transfer of any official,if his continuance is likely to affect probe. Recommendation binding.

Government: This can only be advisory.

Seizure of assets

Team Anna: If Lokpal believes prosecution likely against someone being probed,it should be able to notify list of assets for seizure. After conviction,loss to exchequer (as quantified by court) could be recovered from sale of assets.

Government: Agreed. But the time of notification must be decided after consideration of other Acts. Also,some principles necessary on how the loss would be assessed by a court.

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