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Parliament must stay supreme: PM

Right to peaceful protest is available to all, but the sovereign right of Parliament to make laws should not be questioned, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told both Houses, explaining the circumstances that led to social activist Anna Hazare’s arrest. Full text of PM's statement

delhi Updated: Aug 18, 2011 08:05 IST
HT Correspondents
Manmohan-Singh-defends-his-government-s-action-against-Anna-Hazare-in-Parliament
Manmohan-Singh-defends-his-government-s-action-against-Anna-Hazare-in-Parliament

Right to peaceful protest is available to all, but the sovereign right of Parliament to make laws should not be questioned, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told both Houses, explaining the circumstances that led to social activist Anna Hazare’s arrest.

Hazare is leading an agitation demanding that the jan lokpal bill as drafted by him be passed into a law by Parliament.

“Shri Anna Hazare may be inspired by high ideals in his campaign to set up a strong and effective lokpal. However, the path that he has chosen to impose his draft of a bill upon Parliament is totally misconceived and fraught with grave consequences for our parliamentary democracy,” Singh said.

The PM made his Parliament statement after a decision at a Congress core committee meeting. Taking a dig at Team Anna, the PM said those who believe that their voice and their voice alone represent the will of 1.2 billion people should reflect on that position. Singh said arresting Hazare was a decision taken by Delhi Police and was sad but inevitable move as the activists insisted on defying the law.

“When some sections of society deliberately challenge the authority of the government and the prerogative of Parliament, it is the bounden duty of the government to maintain peace and tranquillity,” Singh said.

Home minister P Chidambaram told Lok Sabha in reply to the discussion on PM’s statement: “Everybody has the right to protest... right to vote us into office; right to vote us out... but they do not have the right to make a law. That right is only with Parliament.”

The home minister said he was astonished by Hazare's statement that he had faith in Parliament but not in parliamentarians. Chidambaram urged MPs not to allow the diminishing Parliament's sovereign right to make laws The opposition rejected these arguments, focusing its attacks on the prime minister. Leader of Opposition Arun Jaitely in Rajya Sabha said: “The text of your statement is that... there is a confrontation between Parliament and civil society. We are refusing to bite this bit. This is not a confrontation between civil society.” He said it was time the PM and his colleagues took “bold decisions”.

Jaitely's counterpart in Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj said: “The government had constituted a joint drafting committee with Team Anna without having representatives of the political parties. When the things went wrong, the Parliamentary process gets reminded,” the Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj said.