Team Anna doubts govt’s intention on Lokpal

Last Updated: Monday, June 6, 2011 - 15:36

New Delhi: Civil society activists led by
Anna Hazare Monday boycotted the meeting of the joint drafting
committee on Lokpal bill saying government`s intentions raised
serious doubts about having a strong anti-corruption watchdog
and protesting against the police crackdown on Ramdev.

The activists have also sought rescheduling of the
next meeting of the JDC on June 10 to some other date because
of some prior engagements of Hazare.

After a meeting of the activists, Prashant Bhushan,
one of the non-official members wrote a letter to Finance
Minister Pranab Mukherjee, Chairman of JDC, saying the
government desires to practically leave everyone out of
Lokpal`s ambit--Prime Minister, horse trading of MPs, middle
and lower bureaucracy judiciary.

He said there was divergence even on the vision of
Lokpal and if the government`s stand is accepted, Lokpal would
be left to investigate the corruption of only 300-odd officers
and ministers.

"This is government`s vision for Lokpal," the letter

The letter criticised the "casual and frivolous"
manner in which the government had prepared the questionnaire
to the chief ministers and the political parties which has
been commented upon by them also.

Referring to the mid-night crackdown on Baba Ramdev
and his followers and other issues, Bhushan said "all these
developments have raised doubts in our mind whether the
government was at all interested in containing corruption and
having a strong Lokpal bill.

"However, what happened on Saturday night in Ramlila
Maidan have strengthened our doubts. All these developments
have raised doubts about government`s intention and so we are
not attending today`s meeting."

The next meeting is scheduled on June 10. Hazare has
prior engagements from June 9-11. "So we request rescheduling
of that meeting," Bhushan said.

While waiting for government`s response, he cautioned
that time was running out and the committee was yet to
finalise the basic principles behind the bill.
Bhushan said developments so far do not inspire confidence that this law would be drafted by June 30.

In the letter, he said the civil society was told that
the manner in which views of political parties and state
governments would be sought would be decided in consultation
with them but it did not happen.

"We wonder whether in the history of parliamentary
democracy, such an objective type questionnaire (to tick mark
the right answer from the choices of a, b, c) was ever sent to
the Chief Ministers and political parties before drafting any
law," he said.

He said they were insisting from the first meeting to
have serious consultations with various stakeholders, not to
seek their opinion in the form of a survey questionnaire, but
to do collective brainstorming with them to seek more ideas
and opinions.

"The government seems to be shying away from any kind
of public debate," he said.

"Recent events since our last meeting don`t inspire
any confidence that the government is serious enough about the
Lokpal bill. Further, what happened in the Ramlila ground
strengthened our doubts," Bhushan told reporters.

Another panel member Arvind Kejriwal alleged that the
government appeared not serious on the issue and were giving
"frivolous" reasons when issues were raised.

"When we asked why they were against including judiciary under the ambit of Lokpal panel, the government side
told us that two former Chief Justices J S Verma and M Venkitachellaih had written articles saying it should not be done, so we will not do," he said.

Asked whether there could be a middle-path to resolve the stalemate, Kejriwal said many people were asking
whether the civil society would compromise.

"We will compromise if the public says so. If the
public does not want the Lokpal to investigate charges of a
Prime Minister`s corruption, we are ready to drop it. If the
public does not want an investigation by Lokpal the charge of
a bribe given to judge, then we are ready for a compromise,"
he said.

Queried whether it was proper for the ministers of the
joint panel to go ahead with the meeting when they were
boycotting it, Kejriwal did not find fault with it saying the
ministers can go ahead with the meeting.

"They can go ahead with the meeting. There is nothing
wrong in it. We also have sent a letter today only. They can
meet," he said.


First Published: Monday, June 6, 2011 - 15:36

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