Anna to fast, supporters burn Lokpal Bill copies

Ahead of the proposed fast by Gandhian Anna Hazare, civil society activists gathered at Jantar Mantar to protest against the government version of the Lokpal Bill.

Zeenews Bureau

New Delhi: Ahead of the proposed fast by Gandhian Anna Hazare, civil society activists gathered at Jantar Mantar on Sunday and burnt copies of the proposed Lokpal Bill by the government.

An estimated 1000 people joined the protest.

Addressing the gathering, Hazare’s close aide and social activist Arvind Kejriwal said the Gandhian is determined to go on his indefinite fast from August 16 to press for clearance of the civil society`s version of the legislation.

"Government`s Lokpal is dangerous as it virtually covers nobody. Besides 1.25 crore government `babus`, the Prime Minister, ministers, MPs, MLAs and even chief ministers do not fall under the ambit of the Lokpal Bill. It is a farce. Anna Hazare will certainly go on fast", he said.
"Kapil Sibal says burning copies of the bill is an insult of the Parliament. Delhi Police says burning papers (Bill) is the violation of the Environment Protection Act. We say bringing such a sham bill in Parliament is its insult not the burning", Kejriwal quipped.

Anna Hazare is scheduled to hold a fast from Aug 16 at Jantar Mantar against the Lokpal Bill. However, Hazare was denied permission to hold his indefinite fast and protest at Jantar Mantar on the ground that prohibitory orders under section 144 of the CrPC is in force in the area. The Delhi Police argued that no single organisation can be allowed to usurp the site for an indefinite period.
Kejriwal said that denial of permission from Delhi police will not deter the activists and Anna from going ahead with his proposed fast and protest against the official version of the bill which is an "insult to the Parliament".

Kejriwal informed that BJP-run MCD has granted permission to hold the protest at Ramlila Ground but the sanction from the police was still awaited. He said if government denies permission, activists would court arrest and protest in jail.

"No corruption, whether it is related to the Prime Minister or corruption in ration shops, government schools and hospitals, is covered under the proposed Act. However, it does provide for two years in jail for the whistle blowers", he said.

“The government`s Lokpal bill covers about 0.5 per cent of public servants, yet it brings under its ambit "virtually every citizen`s group and organization, serving public cause...this raises a pertinent question as to at whom, the Lokpal is targeted at", he said.

“Provisions in the draft bill, favour corrupt public servants as such officials are allowed to file a lawsuit against whistle blowers and complainants for accusing them of filing frivolous complaints”, he added.

RTI activist SC Agarwal, sitting Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi and various retired bureaucrats amongst others also spoke on the occasion.

A bike rally was organised simultaneously in Pune to protest against the government version of Lokpal Bill.

The civil society led by Anna Hazare have been demanding inclusion of Prime Minister, higher judiciary and conduct of MPs inside Parliament under the ambit of Lokpal.

The Hazare team is also demanding a strong public grievance redressal mechanism, lokayuktas at state-level and independent selection, funding and removal mechanism to ensure autonomy of function.

The Lokpal Bill cleared by the cabinet seeks to keep the office of the Prime Minister outside the purview of the ombudsman during his term in office and also exclude higher judiciary and conduct of MPs inside Parliament.

The Lokpal, consisting of chairperson and eight members, half of them judicial, will have its own prosecution and investigation wing with officers and staff necessary to carry out its functions.

With PTI inputs