Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Think of the country, not Anna, while making the Lokpal law….

It appears that the filter for any discussion on Lokpal these days is “Will Anna accept this or not?”. What kind of warped thinking is this? We know that Anna is advised by a very poor team; not only do I doubt its intellect; I also doubt its intentions now. It is quite clear that what they are out to create is a monster of an institution. They have misled the public and are now using the public support to have Parliament pass a law that cannot possibly be acceptable in any democracy in the world. The political parties must rise above their partisan politics – and save the country from this disastrous piece of legislation. Anna can fast. Why be afraid of that?

By now, the government has enough and more political support to keep the CBI out of the Lokpal. Quite clearly, the principle that all three powers – investigation, prosecution and adjudication – cannot be given to one single body has to be praticed in totality. As a way forward, if Team Anna wants to have its own investigation agency, then it must give up the powers to prosecute and pass orders. There is no way that Parliament should agree to bundle all three into the Lokpal. If necessary, the Supreme Court may want to advise Parliament that any such law would be against the principles set out in the Constitution.

Decision making cannot be held hostage to public pressure. I have found this curious thing happen to me sometimes in my personal life (I am sure it happens to everyone). If there is undue pressure (of anything…..say exam results or a promotion etc) that I build on myself over something, that pressure makes me anxious; reduces my efficiecy; and ultimately makes me do something that may be wrong. It’s the same situation that Parliament faced in August this year. The extreme pressure arising from Anna’s fast made Parliament pass a “Sense of the House” resolution that was essentially a mistake. In my mind, that resolution has zero value. It’s like the police extracting a confession from an accused under pressure. Even the courts do not accept such a  confession. How can the Sense of the House resolution have any validity?

Even if we accept the Sense of the House resolution as given, there is a case of Team Anna lying to the public on the wording of the resolution. The exact wording of the resolution is: “This House agrees ‘in principle’ on following issues — (i) Citizen's Charter, (ii) lower bureaucracy under Lokpal through an appropriate mechanism, and (iii) establishment of Lokayukta in the States; And further resolves to forward the proceedings of the House to the Standing Committee on Law and Justice while finalising its report.”
Here’s what Arvind Kejriwal said to Outlook magazine in its latest issue: “Parliament made three commitments in August, conveyed to Annaji by the PM in a letter. They were: a citizen’s charter; Lokayukta to be set up in every state and inclusion of lower bureaucracy within the ambit of the Lokpal bill”. Now please look at the resolution in the previous paragraph and tell me where the “within the ambit of the Lokpal bill” came from? Abhishek Manu Singhvi points the same out in Tehelka when he says: The note says an appropriate mechanism will be introduced. Where, in the note does it say that the lower bureaucracy must be introduced in one particular way  into the Lokpal bill? That’s a misreading”. Dead right. Arvind Kejriwal is too bright a person not to have read the resolution carefully. Yet, he is intentionally misleading the public. As things stand, the government has proposed separate legislations for whistleblowers, the judiciary and citizen’s grievances and has proposed a different way of covering Group C and D officials. Many political parties are in agreement with this approach.

There is a consensus amongst the intelligentsia that the JLP is a draconian law. There is some evidence that Anna himself may perhaps be innocent in this regard – and that it is his team’s motivated advice that is leading him to take such a hard stance. The credentials of his team have been severely dented. Kiran Bedi in particular has been accused by Indian Express of having her hand in the till. Yesterday, the same paper showed that Shanti Bhushan and his son; Jayant Bhushan acquired the plot in Noida at dirt cheap rates – even though they may not have themselves conspired in the scheme. Now that they know of the inappropriateness of the allocation, can they please return the land? But no, they won’t. They want to take whatever they get, from wherever they get and however they get. Arvind Kejriwal had the audacity to expect the government to “forgive” the loan he had taken. If it had done so, a Lokpal, a few years later would have charged it with a case of favoring one person in breach of all rules and accused it of corruption! Team Anna’s original and only wise member – Justice Hegde – has already decided to stay away from the movement. Several other members have also walked away from the team. Anna promised to reconstitute his core team, but there has been no action till now. How could he possibley reconstitute his team when he is surrounded by those who want to protect their skins.

The government of any country is superior to any civilian movement. Democratic governments must allow civilian movements so that people can express their points of view. But when the civilian movements start conducting themselves as irresponsible demagogues demanding that their every word be accepted, its time for the country’s legislators to assert their authority. That time has come now. It’s time Parliamentarians stick together in protecting the country from the tyranny that the JLP will bring. Fasting is Anna’s right. Let him fast. Many others have fasted in the past. That decision is theirs alone to make. If something happens to Anna, he and his team alone would be responsible. Today, Madras remains the capital of TN and no one thinks that there is anything wrong in it; had the government of the day succumbed to the pressures of Potti Sreeramulu (he died fasting in 1952), Madras would have been part of AP and that would have been an absurd decision. Taking the right decision is the most important part of governance – and handling pressure is part of governance.

Maybe the government should force feed Anna after a few days. Till date, many blame Nehru for not having forcefed Potti Sreeramulu…..

To summarize: don’t allow CBI to go under the Lokpal. If the investigative body has to be put under the Lokpal, then let the powers of prosecution and passing ofders be removed. Including the PM with riders is fine. Including the lower sections of bureaucracy must be a sense of relief to politicians – no wonder the Congress “succumbed” to the pressure! Likewise, including the citizen’s grievance charter under the Lokpal must be a satisfying position for our politicians like I argued yesterday. Ideally, they should all be separate laws – so that there is adequate focus given to each issue. If Parliament has the guts, it should separate all these issues out. But even if it doesn’t have the guts, it should still hold its own on the CBI issue. It has the support of several parties on this subject.

The real truth is that no one should hold a gun to Parliament. Threatening to go on a fast unto death is doing precisely that. If Parliament accepts the demands of Team Anna, it will be doing grave injustice to other civilian viewpoints and indeed to logic itself. It will be guilty of enacting a law which will eventually harm the country. If Anna wants to fast, let him. That’s his right. But I want my democracy. And the government had better protect it…

1 comment:

  1. Anna is not merely an individual. He is the voice of the next generation - who can no longer tolerate mediocrity, who can no longer compromise on their rights, who can no longer keep quiet at the injustice that is happening, who want to radically change their lives and their country, who dare not accept things the way it is handed to them, but who care to question the status quo.

    Rightly expressed in the song