Don’t spread canards about the Jan Lokpal Bill

  • Ashutosh
  • Updated: Dec 15, 2015 01:49 IST
Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal (right) during a discussion on the Jan Lokpal Bill, passed by the Delhi Vidhan Sabha, on December 4. (HT Photo)

I read my friend Yogendra Yadav’s article (Diluted beyond all recognition, December 10) with great interest. He was thrown out of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) for his anti-party activities and so I can understand his sense of ‘emptiness’. But his attempts at appropriating the Jan Lokpal (JL) platform reek of political opportunism. For the record, Yadav was never involved in the Anna Hazare movement. He used to occasionally come to Jantar Mantar and the Ramlila Maidan, but he was always sceptical of the movement and its leadership. If my memory serves me right, he has written a piece in a magazine saying that ‘[the] Anna movement is an attempt to hijack democracy’. It was the same rhetoric which was the general refrain of the English elite at that time.

I don’t need to remind Yadav that AAP sacrificed its government on the issue of JL in 2014 when the Congress and the BJP stalled its passage. A year later, Delhi voters punished their MLAs for taking such a stand. When the Jan Lokpal Bill (JLB) was made public by AAP, three major objections were raised by our critics, including Prashant Bhushan and Yadav.

The first objection was that the appointment of a JL will undermine the independence of the lokpal as the electoral college was loaded in favour of politicians. This is an over-generalisation. The chief minister, the Speaker, the Leader of the Opposition and the Chief Justice of the Delhi High Court comprise the electoral college; and even if we assume that the chief minister and the Speaker are from the same party, there are still two more. Looking at the partisan politics of the country, how will the LOP support the CM in the matter of appointment of the lokpal? This debate should end as Hazare has suggested that the number must be increased to seven with more members from civil society. The Delhi government has complied with this suggestion.

The second objection was about the removal of the lokpal. In the original draft, it has to be impeachment, the process used to remove judges of high courts and the Supreme Court. This constitutional provision has never been exercised to date, except in two half attempts.

During our meeting with Hazare, he suggested that a high court judge must first investigate the charges against a lokpal before the initiation of the impeachment process. This has also been added to the final Bill.

The third objection raised by Bhushan and Yadav showcases their political alignment. They objected to central ministers being investigated by the JL, conveniently forgetting that the Anti-Corruption Bureau of Delhi had the power to investigate Union ministers since its inception in the 1960s and this has never been challenged.

As a matter of fact, it is under this law that the Arvind Kejriwal government lodged an FIR against two UPA 2 ministers — Veerappa Moily and Murli Deora — in the KG Basin case. How was that action justified now? Is it because at that time it was the Congress ministers in the dock and it suited the BJP in the run-up to the parliamentary elections?

Why this U-turn? Is it because now it is the BJP ministers who are at the receiving end? Is there any hidden agenda behind their objection as both Bhushan and Yadav are yet to criticise the Modi government for not appointing a lokpal at the Centre, though the position has been lying vacant for the last two years?

Yadav has also been saying that the JL has to take officers from the government for investigation. Section 10 of the Delhi Jan Lokpal Bill, 2015, says: ‘The Jan Lokpal may appoint or, with the consent of the government designate officers ....’ The first five words of the JL assert that a lokpal can appoint anyone for investigation and this decision is not dependent on the consent of the government.

This Bill has also given powers to the lokpal to have its own prosecution wing and talks about creating special courts that will end matters in six months; punishment for corruption can range from a few years to life imprisonment.

Are these virtues of a weak lokpal that Yadav alleges the Delhi government is bringing? Yadav seems to have taken shelter in sophistry of language, and his arguments have no substance.

Yogendraji, I understand your pain. Let me tell you, AAP is a product of a movement that owes its existence to the courage and conviction of its volunteers and supporters.

We don’t need spin doctors to divert attention from any discussion, be it the JL debate or the latest odd-even traffic formula.

Ashutosh is a spokesperson of the Aam Aadmi Party

The views expressed are personal

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