Shanti Bhushan questions government in a letter to Pranab Mukherjee

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.

hidden June 06, 2011 16:42:45 IST
Shanti Bhushan questions government in a letter to Pranab Mukherjee

Civil society activists today raised serious doubts about government's intention to have a strong anti-corruption watchdog.

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.

Shanti Bhushan questions government in a letter to Pranab Mukherjee

Civil society activists Anna Hazare, Shanti Bhushan, Prashant Bhushan and Arvind Kejriwal during a meeting at Maharashtra Sadan in New Delhi on Monday. Subhav Shukla/PTI

After a meeting of the activists, Shanti Bhushan, the co-chairman of the panel, 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, middle and lower bureaucracy and 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 said.

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 of 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.

Anna Hazare-led civil society will sit on fast at Jantar Mantar on Wednesday to protest the government action on yoga guru Baba Ramdev and would defy the prohibitory orders if police refuse to give permission.

Shanti Bhushan, co-chair of joint drafting committee on Lokpal, said they will sit on fast from 10 am to 7 pm on Wednesday at Jantar Mantar to protest the police action.

"The incident in Ramlila Maidan on Saturday was a blot on democracy. We will protest it. It is the right of public to protest and will sit there even if we do not have police permission," he told reporters here today.

Delhi Police had issued prohibitory orders in New Delhi district for a week in a bid to pre-empt any protest by Ramdev supporters.

Bhushan said the police action at Ramlila Maidan, where Ramdev and his followers were on a hunger strike on the issue of black money, was an assault on democracy. "So we have to decided to go there and sit on a fast in protest," he said.

Hazare had yesterday said that he would defy prohibitory orders if police deny permission for the protest, saying it was the right of public to raise voice against injustice.

Another civil society member Arvind Kejriwal said they will conduct fast, an all religious prayer and a public debate on Lokpal Bill during their protest on Wednesday. "It will be a peaceful protest," he said.

Activist and former IPS officer Kiran Bedi said they will write to Delhi Police soon, seeking formal permission for sitting on the protest. "We will decide on whether to call off the protest or court arrest after police takes a stand on our letter," she said.

A senior police official said they could give permission to any protest depending upon the situation and reminded that police had permitted Hazare to go on his protest in April for Lokpal Bill when there were prohibitory orders.

PTI

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