First things first. Unlike what some pundits may believe, burning copies of the official draft of the Lokpal Bill that was tabled in Parliament on Thursday is not an "insult and affront to Parliament". What it is, is an act of condemnation of a watered down Bill pushed through by the government and a protest against a supra-empowered section of the political class closing ranks to insulate itself from prying eyes. The protest by Anna Hazare and his supporters is against a certain kind of hoodwinking the State has been famous for - and which has become all too acceptable by many for whom democracy and Parliament have become synonyms rather than facilitating partners. At the heart of the Lokpal Bill is the issue of statutory corruption - not universal graft, but specifically corruption within politics, the judiciary and the bureaucracy. In the same way that traffic laws pertain to the upkeep of laws related to vehicular movement and not to, say, anything that takes place outdoors on roads, the Bill should keep its eye on statutory graft. But even as the Jan Lokpal Bill may not have come up with a perfect solution, the government's rejection of incorporating most of these suggestions in the official draft suggests a wariness of listening to voices that aren't echoes of its own.
Over the past months, we have listed our points of departure from both drafts. We have also found Mr Hazare's outbursts unhelpful for the establishment of bona fide negotiations with the government side. But whether in reaction to Mr Hazare's bad politics or against his good intentions or in a bid to not spread the anti-corruption writ outside its own ambit, the government has verified the fears of those expecting a bulldozed draft that carries little real anti-graft venom.
To take only one set of the ingredients in the official draft of the Bill tabled in Parliament, the office of the lokpal has been made to tiptoe its way while making any accusation. Not only does the lokpal, in the official draft, have to provide two hearings to the accused before charging him - one before registering a first information report and another before filing a chargesheet in court - but the complainant stands to be slapped with a tougher conviction if his charges prove to be false than the accused if the latter proves to be guilty. In other words, the dice are heavily loaded in favour of those who are to be under the scanner. One only hopes that being respectable colleagues of the government in Parliament, the opposition, in the standing committee debate, will bring to notice the gaping holes in the Lokpal Bill. Because while Parliament is sacrosanct, our parliamentarians, especially those sitting in the treasury benches, should realise that there are voices of democracy that lie outside the nation's seat of legislature. And perhaps most importantly of all, ears of democracy too.