Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Referendum for Anti Corruption Laws in India: Lessons from Italy

After all the fast, police action, meetings, character assassination, allegations and counter allegations the debate of Anti Corruption Movement in India has now centred on the inclusion of Prime Minister, Members of Parliament and Judiciary in the jurisdiction of the Lokpal (Ombudsman).

The civil society ( btw not many understand what that means in India ) members wants the inclusion of PM, MPs and Judiciary. The ruling party is reluctant. Civil society members are proposing referendum on the jurisdiction of the Lokpal.

Many articulate TV speakers say that referendum is undemocratic. The Government is elected by the people. So we should let the Government allow to do whatever it wants and if somebody has problem than they can choose not to vote for this Government in the next election.

What if the Government is doing wrong and against the will of people? Then it is the job of the Opposition to put pressure on the Government and take the issue in the next election.

What if the Opposition agrees with the Government? That is not possible in politics. The Opposition cannot agree with the Government on any issue especially when at least some section of public is against the issue.

Well when the question is of putting PM and MPs in the purview of the Lokpal, the Opposition can conveniently agree with the Government to avoid scrutiny in the future.

Well then we have Judiciary. Someone can file a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) and request courts to oversee the issue. Well this gets complicated as Judiciary shouldn’t intervene in merits of the legislation as long as the legislation is constitutional. Moreover for the question of inclusion of Judiciary, there are no guesses what the position of Judiciary will be?

This is going round the circle and current institutions will not be able to solve this. As Einstien said, “Problems cannot be solved by same level of thinking that created them.

We need to change the thinking for solving corruption menace. Referendum for taking public opinion on these issues looks a practical alternative.

Can a Referendum capture public opinion effectively in a democracy?

Well today only, Italians have voiced their opinion in a historic referendum on privatization of water services, use of nuclear power and above all on immunity against prosecution of their current President.


If Italy can do it then why not India? Both countries name start with “I” and are five letter word. In a country where nothing happens on time except Pizza delivery, this is time to learn some thing good from the Land of Pizzas ( Italy).