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Civil society for referendum on Lokpal

Last Updated: Sunday, July 17, 2011 - 20:03

Bangalore: Civil society members of the
joint committee on Lokpal will seek a referendum on the points
of difference with government representatives including the
issue of bringing the prime minister and the higher judiciary
under the ambit of the anti-graft ombudsman.

The referendum on these issues will be sought in 10
constituencies including that of Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal
in Delhi and former Law Minister Veerappa Moily, lawyer
Prashant Bhushan, one of the civil society members of the
joint panel, said at a function here on Sunday.

He was speaking at a programme organised by an NGO Jana
Sangrama Parishad as part of their campaign against illegal
mining, illegal land acquisition and corruption in the state.

Rejecting the government`s argument that PMO is so
sensitive that it cannot be brought under the ambit of Lokpal,
he said, "It is against the basic principles of Constitution.

They fail to understand that a corrupt Prime Minister is the
greatest security threat to the country and it is necessary he
be subjected to anti-corruption investigation."

He said the government`s draft of the bill does not even
agree to bringing the higher judiciary under the ambit of
Lokpal. On the argument offered by the government members of
the committee that judiciary can be investigated only by
judges, he said it cannot be "unbiased".

The civil society`s draft has suggested all public
servants be covered under Lokpal, while government has said
officers only above grade "A" will be covered, Bhushan said.

If government did not agree to these `non-negotiable`
proposals, except for inclusion of Prime Minister and
judiciary under the ambit of Lokpal, which could be discussed
before the standing committee, Anna Hazare, who is
spearheading the movement against corruption will go on an
indefinite fast from August 16, he said.

Later speaking to reporters, Bhushan warned that if the
government tries to prevent Hazare from going on fast or
arrests him as in the case of Ramedev, there will be a "great
deal of resentment and mass upsurge in the country".

However, he said the government was unlikely to do so as
the move would prove suicidal for it.

To a question on Lokpal himself not falling prey to
corruption, Bhushan said, "We have made Lokpal accountable in
multiple ways, including all members of Lokpal being
accountable to the Supreme Court and all orders of Lokpal
being subject to judicial review".

Bhushan said another point the government has not agreed
to is Lokpal being given the power to protect whistleblowers
from physical and administrative harassment.

The civil society members have suggested that while
Lokpal be set up for central ministries and departments,
Lokayukta be set up for each state government independent of
government and institutions like Supreme Court and Election
Commission.

This has not found favour with the government, which has
entrusted state governments with the reponsibility to set up
Lokayutas.

Bhushan also said moving towards a model of participatory
democracy would be the biggest challenge for social crusaders
in future.

"Apart from Lokpal, we need to have policies and laws in
the interest of the people. For this we need to move towards
participatory democracy. This will be the biggest challenge in
future, the key to which will be their continued and increased
involvement in campaigns like India Against Corruption.

PTI

First Published: Sunday, July 17, 2011 - 20:03
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