Chandigarh, Apr 23: Amid raging controversy over some of Lokpal Bill drafting committee's civil society members, Gandhian Anna Hazare's close aide Kiran Bedi today said that it was the collective responsibility of all citizens including the media to see that “allegations don't win” at this juncture and truth and honesty prevails. “Truth and honesty should win. At this juncture, allegations should not win and it is our collective responsibility to ensure that,” said Bedi, who was at the forefront of the Hazare agitation, told reporters at Punjab University here on the sidelines of a book release function.
She also put the onus on the media to see what things should be given prominence at this stage. “It is up to you to decide whose lie you should make your headlines and whose you should not. And whom you give space and whom you don't. Try to understand what I am trying to say,” the country's first woman IPS officer said. She was replying to questions on the controversies surrounding civil society members of the committee drafting Lokpal Bill.
On Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee's statement that the government was looking forward to enacting a strong anti-corruption legislation, Bedi said that it had come as a “big relief”.
After Mukherjee's statement Karnataka Lokayukta former Justice Santosh Hegde today indicated that he may not resign from the joint drafting committee on Lokpal Bill. To a question, Bedi said that “if we keep moving forward in a single direction and if we don't divert, I think the Bill should be ready on time. Which is why I keep saying that we have to bear in mind and understand which things deserve to be given importance at this stage”.
“It is in your (media's )hands. (The fight against corruption) is a national movement. Now it is up to you in media to decide what things you give importance to. Please understand this Lokpal legislation is not coming for Anna Hazare or the Bhushans, but for every citizen. For the past one year, Bhushans, Justice Hegde and Arvind Kejriwal have been into this. They have held numerous meetings, workshops and seminars and sought suggestions from people,” she said.
She said the draft was not a final or a closed document. “Tomorrow, we are going to hold a big seminar in which Loksatta party's Jaiprakash from Andhra Pradesh will be there. All these things will be discussed,” she said.
Bedi said that the fight against corruption had just started and there was still a long way to go and they needed people's continued support to see that the Lokpal bill reaches its logical conclusion and is passed by Parliament. “We badly need an Independent body like the Election Commission, like the Supreme Court...to tackle unbridled corruption. At present, there is no fear, no strong deterrent and corrupt are getting away. Some fear has to be there like life imprisonment, freezing of property so that corruption can be reined in,” she said.
She said that a body which does not “politically swing around” has to be there to check corruption. “The next question is whether judiciary should also be brought under its ambit. I must say that majority opinion is that it should be and that can be the next step,” she said. Earlier, she released a book “Terrorism: Our World and our Laws” written by Shruti Bedi, daughter-in-law of Supreme Court Judge, Justice H S Bedi.
Punjab and Haryana High Court Judge Justice Permod Kohli, Justice (retired) J L Gupta and senior advocate of the High Court here, R S Cheema were also present and spoke on the occasion.
Speaking after releasing the book, Kiran Bedi suggested legal reviews, moving towards more inclusive society, role of religious communities and good governance which can be among the things that can help keep the scourge at bay. Bedi, who recalled how people of Punjab suffered during terrorism days, said if people are watchful and do their duty they can help control the menace.
“People can be the change and they have to be the change and they must be the change...by being eyes and ears. Under the law, we are duty bound to inform the police about any unlawful activity,” she said.
She also gave the example of Gujarat, with recent accusations by a senior state police officer, coming back to “hound” Chief Minister Narendra Modi. She said that as the matter was sub-judice and therefore she cannot say anything about allegations of state-terrorism, Kiran Bedi, however, said “You know what is happening in Gujarat, it's not leaving the honourable chief minister. It is coming back to hound him once again year after year”.
On inclusive society, she recalled from the experiences of being posted in Tihar jail, saying she remembers how she had tried to reach out to a group of Kashmiris brought there from J&K by fulfilling their demand of having a newspaper to read. “The group, which was initially reluctant even to talk, gradually opened up and formed a Khushal (Happy) Kashmir group giving up their negative and destructive thinking,” she said, talking about the need to have an inclusive society. Bedi, while talking about the need to have regular legal reviews, also lamented that we still continue to have the Police Act of 1861.
“We need to keep our eyes open on the high and mighty as we have seen in the case of 2G spectrum how financial might can be misused,” she said giving another suggestion. She also said that to prevent terrorism from taking root, role of religious groups can be important as they reach out to communities.
Bedi also suggested that the Leader of Opposition should be co-opted in the National Security Council so that prior deliberations and consensus can be hand on any future laws on terror. PTI