Will the government miss the train again on Lokpal Logjam?

The public support for the anti-corruption movement led by Anna Hazare for establishing a strong Lokpal is growing wider and deeper across the country with every passing minute. At the same time, there also have been a number of criticisms against Team Anna. Most of these criticisms are way simplistic, like saying Anna has to stand for an election if he wants his bill to be passed etc. So let us not discuss them here again. Let us concentrate on the most valid ones now.

The most vocal of the criticisms against Team Anna is that their stance is rigid and adamant. There have been people claiming that Anna Hazare is having a “My Way is the highway” approach towards the entire issue. That Anna Hazare is black mailing the parliament saying it HAS to pass HIS version of the Bill. That Team Anna is not prepared to have ANY discussions on their bill, etc. How valid are these criticisms of Anna Hazare and his movement?

Government vs Team Anna - Source: http://www.manjul.com/index.php/2011/07/31/lokpal-bill-anna-vs-government/

Janlokpal Bill is Anna Hazare’s Bill

First and foremost Janlokpal bill is NOT Anna Hazare’s Bill. The very claim that Anna Hazare is saying “My Bill” in the context of “I created this bill” is completely baseless. Anna Hazare is a social activist NOT a legal expert. You or I cannot go and draft a bill, no matter how good our intentions are, without understanding the legalities of the wordings involved, and the complexities of clauses involved in it. Only legal experts can do that.

The Jan Lokpal Bill was created by legal experts in the India Against Corruption Movement after taking inputs from across the country. Yes, I repeat from across the Country. The government standing committee on lokpal only recently announced, that it wants to take into consideration public opinion from across the country on lokpal bill. But Team Anna has been doing this from day one.

For those who are not aware, way back in April 2011 Team Anna started accepting public opinion as input in creating a strong lokpal bill. They had even created a dedicated website for this at lokpalbillconsultation.org which has received till to date hundreds of inputs. The first inputs received are way back in the month of April. Below are some examples of the received inputs from the general public.

I appreciate the endeavour, I would like to say that even judges must be included in the Lokpal bill in order to make judiciary transparent and decide the matter on merits. – Vinay Pannu

A Member of Legislative Assembly(MLA) and Panchayat authority such as sarpanch etc have not been included in the defination of a “PUBLIC SERVANT”. Please make this addition so that we can weed out corruption at a grass root level.. All the best in your endeavour for a beautiful india. - Blasco J Fernandes

The Draft should include a clause which explictly makes it mandatory for the electronic and print media to daily highlight the cases being probed by the Lokpal together with the progress on them on a weekly basis. The cases pertaining to a State can be highlighted by the media of that State as a start. This would effectively keep “corruption” alive in the minds of the the people and ensure no derailment of the process. - K. Madhusudan

Team Anna has also in the mean time toured across the country gathering public input on the issue. It is only after repeated debates and discussions that the legal experts in Anna’s Team created the Jan Lokpal Bill Draft. Look at the list of some of the eminent personalities in the team which drafted the Jan Lokpal Bill.

  • Shanti Bhushan – Senior Advocate and former Union Law Minister in the government of Morarji Desai.
  • Kiran Bedi – Former IPS officer, Magsaysay award winner, former United Nations police advisor.
  • Justice N. Santhosh Hegde – Former justice of the Supreme Court Of India, former Solicitor General of India and the former Lokayukta (ombudsman) of Karnataka whose report on “illegal mining” in the state made the Chief Minister of the state and his cabinet resign.
  • J M Lyngdoh – Former Chief Election Commissioner and Ramon Magsaysay Award winner.

So it is not “My Bill” by Anna in the  literal sense. It is “Our Bill” for all those who have been a part of it, including the eminent personalities from public life and the general public who have given their inputs and opinions. And this is how legal drafts should be prepared in a democracy.

Team Anna is NOT prepared for discussions and debates on Janlokpal Bill

True, public memory is very short. But can it be so short? Does anybody even remember about the “Joint Drafting Committee” that was formed by including members from both the civil society (Team Anna) and the government?

  • Wasn’t there an opportunity for the government to debate and discuss the issues and differences of opinion in detail with the members of Team Anna and get them resolved then and there?
  • Why did the government refuse to video record and televise the proceedings of the joint drafting committee meetings? What was there to hide?
  • Why did it at all create an opportunity to send Team Anna back into a position where they had to start from the scratch all over again?

How many times does one expect Team Anna to be footballed between protests and discussions?

  • The Team Anna first asked for discussions on Lokpal and the government refused them a place.
  • Then Anna Hazare went on a fast on April 5 2011
  • Then the government gave up and formed a “Joint Drafting Committee” on Lokpal comprising of members of civil society and government.
  • Then again the government went ahead and presented its own version of the Lokpal bill to the parliament.
  • Then Team Anna approached the Delhi police seeking permission to organize protests again, which was denied.
  • Then the Delhi Police arrested Anna Hazare for going ahead with the protest and later released him giving permission for the same protest on the issue of which they had arrested him earlier.
  • Now they want Team Anna to get back to the discussion table again!

Come on, there is a limit to this. How many times do we want to keep holding discussions and fasts? For heaven’s sake, this bill has been making the rounds of the parliament for the past 40 years without being agreed upon and passed, and we still want to continue holding discussions and debates? With every passing minute crores more of tax payer’s money gets looted and routed to swiss accounts, and back in the black markets within the country.

All those who are now saying that Janlokpal bill should be discussed, what were they doing for all these years? How many of them have in the past four decades pressed the government to debate on its lokpal draft and get it passed? Why all the fuss now? Just because the movement has grown in size and proportions?

In spite of this if one accuses Team Anna of being rigid – well then fine, lets get back to the table of discussions as and when the government and the critics finds some free time – and keep repeating this till the times of our great grand children and hope that another Anna will take up the cause again then.

If not…

The way out towards a logical conclusion of the Lokpal confrontation

The government should first climb down from its arrogant behavior. Stop using terms like “Parliament is Supreme”, “We create laws, not the civil society”, “Anna Hazare should stand for elections” etc. Those who don’t know, don’t know about it. Those who know, very well know that it is the civil society group in the NAC (National Advisory Council) which creates the draft bills for the parliament to discuss and pass, that in India Constitution in Supreme, not the Parliament, and in the Constitution (as pointed out by the top jurist Fali Nariman) WE THE PEOPLE comes before Parliament or President or Prime Minister.

The ploy of government’s attempt to project the anti-corruption movement as a confrontation between civil society and parliament of India is not going to work either. Ever since the midnight attack on Baba Ramdev’s movement the government has been committing blunder after blunder. The Arrest of Anna Hazare, the statements by Congress spokespersons, the flip flops – are all only going to project an even more increasingly negative image of the government to the general public.

The government had a golden opportunity of being seen on the side fighting against corruption when it created the joint drafting committee with Team Anna. It should have sorted all its differences then and there on the draft Lokpal Bill and could have easily emerged as the first government in Independent India which was serious about fighting corruption and introduced a strong anti-corruption lokpal institution in the country. Now, after all these unfortunate twists and turns that took place later – the government is seen on the opposite side of the fight against corruption. Definitely not a good PR for a government if it is serious about coming back to power the third time.

Hence, sense would prevail now if government stops wasting time (every passing by minute is precious as the crowd keeps growing in number and Sri Anna Hazare is losing weight), and

  • Step 1: Withdraw the government’s version of the Lokpal Bill. Be humble and accept the fact that it simply has no substance in it.
  • Step 2: The top decision makers in the government (PM included) should forget all their egos and start discussing with Team Anna with all seriousness.
  • Step 3:  Debate all the pending contentious issues. Either convince the other side or get convinced on all these outstanding differences. Get the opposition leaders of the parliament involved in the process. In a democracy it is a blunder to ignore the opposition on crucial issues like these.
  • Step 4:  Present the mutually agreed Lokpal Bill draft to the parliament. From here on wards it becomes the responsibility of the parliament (opposition included) to pass the bill into a law. Government wins Round 1 if it reaches till here.
  • Step 5: Have a healthy debate in the parliament with members and any parties opposing the bill. If the government had involved opposition members actively in Step 3, then there will be little chances of requiring major amendments to the draft at this stage.
  • Step 6: If all the earlier steps are taken care of, then in all probability the parliament will pass the bill during the vote. If not, the entire blame for not passing the bill would go on those opposing it and not on the government, for the government has already done its part.

This is how you convert a difficulty into an opportunity. And if you don’t, you are to blame yourself. Remember, Anna Hazare has called for a Jail Bharo Andolan from August 30. Time is seriously running out and so will be options.

  • sainath

    Gurudev, I am not sure as to how even if the Janlokpal is passed and brought how exactly the whole implementation will take place…how much time it will take etc… 

    For an X person who breaks say signal and is caught by Y police, its easier for him to give 50 bugs to Y rather than pay fine which is probably around 200 bugs or so… even if janlokpal is passed such thing might stay, since it becomes a mutual understanding between Y police and the X person and no complaint will be logged… so still thinking on all such things…

    • Anonymous

      Sainath, first and foremost, its not as if one law is going to solve ALL the problems. No law can act as a substitution for morals and ethics. 

      Having said that, if lokpal is established based on the Janlokpal draft, then in the scenario mentioned by you, the following can happen.

      Assuming that a two wheeler rider breaks the signal and gets away bribing the traffic police, say you or I observe it. Then we can record a video in our mobile and submit it to lokpal officers for further action. Or more practically, assuming that there is a traffic surveillance camera (most cities are having this now) at the signal, a mere complaint by you can cause the lokpal to take suo motto action. Based on the location, date and time of the event provided by you, the lokpal can request the surveillance video recording of that place at that time. Then they can check the video for any signal violation by the said vehicle, and if there is a violation then check the records as to whether that vehicle was booked or not. If not, they can summon the traffic police in charge at that time to provide an explanation. 

      Depending on the conclusion the lokpal arrive at, they can penalize the traffic police. For repeated offences or on proof of bribery, they can even dismiss the officer from his job. So guess, no traffic police will risk his entire job for 50 or 100 bugs. Every bribe he takes makes it more easy to prove his corrupt practices, and will turn out to be extremely risky.

      • sainath

        yes i understand this, but to happen this in practical will not be that easy and take longer may be… also bribes wont be taken at a place where people see or can be recorded… yes once such scenarios start happening regularly then there will be restraint 

        • Anonymous

          Guess you didn’t get it :)
          Lokpal officers can look at the surveillance camera video and see that even though the person jumped the signal, he was not booked. Not necessary to see whether bribe was taken or not. Not booking those jumping signals is also a lack of duty and repeated instances of this can cost the officer his job as well or may result in more penalization than the bribe he gets every time. It wont take that long either. Also in Janlokpal there are options for Lokpal to setup special benches in high courts to speed up the overall process.

          • sainath

            i have got it :) , i understand that surely janlokpal will benefit… but just the implementation and how effectively people will use it…. and if not used properly it will also be like some other laws for which loopholes will be found afterwards…

            • Anonymous

              Haha, unfortunately people are not software and so cannot be automated. If people dont make use of it then no law is of any use. Courts are there but what if people dont come forward as witnesses. Police stations are there but what if people dont go and complain. No lokpal can help this. Laws can only make sure that we get justice, but for that we should make our moves, laws cant do that on our behalf.
              For democracy to succeed its people should be participants in the process, not be mute spectators or mere observers.

              • Vion_vion

                I am quite amazed to see a person who is well read like you are making supportive statements about a movement that even TEAM Anna doesn’t know where it is heading to!!!

                First and foremost,like all other true citizens of India, I do believe in what Anna is doing and salute his indomitable spirit. Corruption was rampant throughout and many bigwigs like JP and others tried few times to eradicate the malice. But one man has to come to the forefront to make this a national issue again. Salute to Anna Hazare for what he is doing.

                Having said that, passing a mere bill and appointing few officers is NOT going to change the environment. There might be an immediate wave of change but have we ever thought about the massive changes that are needed to implement this whole “BILL”? You need lakhs of officers and infrastructure and funds, just to create another MONSTER(with absolute power); and the scariest part. This institution is going to be the supreme power house in India and what makes us think that they can actually do the job? Can Kiran Bedi or Bhusan or Kejirwal oversee everything? What’s the accountability for the officers running the “Jan Lokpal bill Institution” (say once Anna wins)?

                I definitely think we need to pluck corruption but for that to happen, the change has to come from grass root levels. The whole system needs to dance and orchestrate to ensure corruption is subsided. Giving singularity and endless power to one institute is against the norms of Democracy, which all of us are so proud of.

                • Anonymous

                  It will definitely lead to something which is far better than today’s 2G, CWG, Adarsh situation. A situation far better than today where I have to bribe for everything from birth certificates to death certificates. 

                  The current confusion about where it is heading to is not because of some indecisiveness about how lokpal should be. Its about government not wanting to accept a strong lokpal and hence trying out different dramas each day. So the current situation has nothing to do with the main goal of the movement. The current confusion is because of a confused government about handing the issue. First they arrest him, then release him. First they accuse him of corruption, then call him a hero. First they refuse permission to fast, then they post city commissioner to ensure all is smooth at the fast venue. I am more worried about how this govt responds to crisis situations. Hope this is not how they will respond in case of an external threat!

                  It is NOT a monster bill as it is made out to be. Only those who are against it for one or other reason (either bcoz the credit goes to Anna or bcoz they need corruption) are spreading this misinformation. Supreme Court of India has more powers than the proposed Lokpal, has it become a MONSTER? CBI has more powers than the proposed Lokpal, has it become a MONSTER? IT department can raid anybody’s house, has it become a MONSTER?

                  Look at the eminent personalities who have supported the bill – be it Ram Jethmalani or J M Lyngdoh or former chief justices, noted jurists – they all who know in and out of our legal system – can’t be wrong, isn’t it?

                  What is the budget required for running a huge lokpal? 700 crores.. Is it too big for a government which wastes thousands of crores on populist programmes? And look at the thousands of crores more the lokpal is going to save to the exchequer by preventing corruption. It will be the most profitable company if it is considered to be a private ltd.

                  If you read the Janlokpal draft, it makes lokpal far more accountable than government’s version. In Govt’s draft only Govt can remove a corrupt or unaccoutable lokpal. In Janlokpal draft you or I can go to the court to remove a corrupt lokpal.

                  Existing system is a MONSTER. Supreme Court (using its supreme powers which you call MONSTROUS) used it to intervene to speed up 2G investigations, bringing CBI investigation on the case directly under it, and sent Raja & Co to jail. While our PM was sitting happily for over a year on the file requesting to take action against Raja.

                  Supreme Court used its power to nullify the government’s appointing a tainted person as a CVC. 

                  It is not as if a person will be made lokpal and he will be answerable to none. Thousands of IAS officers in this country have great powers. Where is the system to check how correctly they are using their powers? Lokpal cant go and prosecute somebody without proof, all prosecution finally will be according to law. Its not some extra constitutional authority.

                  Read the main points at http://www.hitxp.com/articles/politics/differences-comparison-anna-jan-lokpal-government-bill/