Not the people's lokpal bill: team Anna Hazare
The Anna Hazare team today dismissed the lokpal bill approved by government as a "cruel joke" which will be struck down as unconstitutional by Supreme Court "within a minute" and said the Gandhian will sit on an indefinite fast here from August 16 demanding its withdrawal.
Accusing the government of bringing a "fractured lokpal" for corporates and to "fool" people, the activists said they may challenge the bill if passed by Parliament in its present form by keeping the Prime Minister out its ambit.
"The entire country will protest with me at Jantar Mantar on August 16...This is not Hazare's protest but the entire country's. The people need to look at this as a second fight for their freedom and they should all come out on the streets," Hazare said in Maharashtra's Ralegaon Siddi.
His asscociate Arvind Kejriwal told reporters in New Delhi that Hazare's fast will be to demand withdrawal of the bill cleared by the Cabinet and bring a stronger law in place of the bill, which he alleged would not give any succour to common people in the fight against corruption.
The bill proposes to keep the office of Prime Minister outside its purview during his term in office besides excluding higher judiciary and conduct of MPs inside Parliament.
Disappointed at the government "leaving out majority" of the points raised by the civil society, lawyer Prashant Bhushan said the government's decision to exclude the office of Prime Minister from the ambit of Lokpal would not stand the scrutiny of court.
Alleging that the five senior ministers who were part of the joint drafting committee had displayed "total illiteracy" of Constitutional law, he said, "this bill will be struck down by the Supreme Court within a minute if they give immunity to Prime Minister."
Bhushan said it was an "absurd proposition" to suggest that corruption by a Prime Minister will be tackled only after he demits office. "Who is advising this government? There are senior ministers who are lawyers also," he said.
He cited that the Supreme Court in the 1970s struck down the 39th Constitution Amendment which disallows challenging Prime Minister's election, saying such a proposition was violation of the basic structure of the Constitution.
Taking a dig at the Prime Minister, he said, "I don't believe that he takes bribe but unfortunately, he has allowed a Cabinet of bribe takers to flourish while knowing fully what was happening.
"He was fully aware of what was happening but unfortunately, he did not take any step. There were some feeble statements like so-called compulsions of coalition. The fear of losing office overtook him," he said.
Former IPS officer Kiran Bedi alleged that this lokpal bill was for corporates and just to show the world that India also has an anti-corruption ombudsman.
"What we have is a jokepal... "It is a deceit on the nation," she said adding once it is passed, it would have a cascading effect as those states which plan to set up the institution of lokayukta will now plan to avoid chief ministers from it.
Karnataka lokayukta and a member of joint lokpal bill drafting committee member Santosh Hegde said in Bangalore that the bill does not have provisions the civil society asked for.
"I don't think it will be a very strong lokpal bill. For 44 years, they have not brought the lokpal bill and now they want to bring a bill which may not be a strong bill at all," he said.