New Delhi, April 7: The first cracks in the rainbow coalition held forth by Anna Hazare surfaced on Wednesday with criticism over provisions of the Jan Lokpal Bill and the method being used by activists to try and push it through, reports Indian Express.
Karnataka Lokayukta Retired Justice Santosh Hegde, part of the group that finalised the activists' version of the Bill, acknowledged he had “objections” to certain clauses.
“I would not like to say much else. While I say that the government's Lokpal Bill is of no use, I am not completely with the Jan Lokpal Bill, too, although it's much better. I would certainly say that the government should talk to civil society and incorporate their views while the civil society should also participate in any such discussion with an open mind. It has to be a two-way street,” Justice Hegde told The Indian Express.
Some of the clauses that Hegde is said to have objected to include: the Bill's blatant directives to the judiciary, including to the Supreme Court on how to handle petitions related to the Lokpal; provision of life imprisonment as punishment under the Prevention of Corruption Act; barring the Supreme Court from dismissing any petition for removal of the Lokpal in liminae (at the threshold).
“Left to myself, I would like to have judges under the purview of the Lokpal. But I am not the final word on this matter. We will have to go by what the Constitution provides for. We will need to repeal or amend many Constitutional provisions, including the matter of impeachment (for the Bill),” he said.
Lawyer Prashant Bhushan, also one of the members involved in drafting the Bill, said he had no objection to the National Advisory Council (NAC) re-drafting the Lokpal Bill.
And NAC member Aruna Roy signed a statement today, along with Nikhil De and Shekhar Singh of The National Campaign for the People's Right to Information, praising Hazare for helping create a groundswell of public support for the Jan Lokpal Bill but clearly opposing the demand for 50% of the drafting committee being from civil society.
The statement said: “Bypassing democratic processes for political expediency however desirable the outcome, may be detrimental to democracy itself. Thus our focus is not on ensuring that there is 50% representation for civil society with members of the GoM who are entrusted with drafting the Bill, but to demand that the Government immediately announce its intention to pass a strong Lok Pal legislation based on wide public consultations.”
Another bizarre clause that has attracted criticism is the one that seeks to establish a separate fund by the name of Lokpal Fund. According to the draft, this Fund will include penalties/fines imposed by the Lokpal and “10 per cent of the loss of public money detected/prevented on account of investigations by Lokpal.”
Meanwhile, Hazare, in a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today, underlined the demand for a joint committee — of activists and government officials — to draft the Bill. “It is being said that the government wants to talk to us and we are not talking to them. This is utterly false. Tell me a single meeting when you called us and we did not come. We strongly believe in dialogue and engagement. Kindly do not mislead the country by saying that we are shunning dialogue.”
“The NAC sub-committee has discussed Jan Lokpal Bill. But what does that actually mean? Will the government accept the recommendations of NAC sub-committee? So far, UPA II has shown complete contempt for even the most innocuous issues raised by NAC,” said Hazare.
He also rebutted suggestions by Congress spokespersons that he had been instigated to go on fast. “This is an insult to my sense of wisdom and intelligence. I am not a kid that I could be instigated into going on an indefinite fast. I am a fiercely independent person.”
He said he had no faith in the government's process of drafting an anti-corruption law because many of the members of the Group of Ministers “have such a shady past that if effective anti-corruption systems had been in place, some of them would have been behind bars”.