FIGHT AGAINST CORRUPTION
Post.4 : Team Anna vs Govt
The Lok Pal Bill is the Focal Point.
Should it be
the Jan Lok Pal Bill or Government Lok Pal Bill?
This is the Burning Question.
It is - my way or the High way !
This seems to be the stand of the Government. Unfortunately, this also seems to be - the stand of Team Anna.
This stand-off by both just can’t work out, in the practical, realistic, structured world that we live in.
Today – it is Advantage Team Anna! Fine. Conditions withdrawn. Indefinite Fast permitted for 15 days. Ram Lila Maidan is the venue. Anna is in high spirits and Great Energy. Team Anna, its followers and supporters are in Euphoria on this victory over Government. This time – the battle is between Government and Team Anna on the streets and in offices of power – with Opposition pitching in, in Parliament. But, the Fast has to end one way or the other. How will it end? And, what then? Anna, the great Gandhian, has focused all attention on fighting Corruption – and we all want this fight to result in success for the country.
The final Battle however is only in Parliament – between the Government and Opposition. Team Anna will not be in Picture. No Government can therefore commit now, on – what Parliament will finally pass – in its wisdom. If so, what can we expect as the realistic outcome in Parliament finally? What is the maximum that this Parliament, or any Parliament, can agree to? Or, will it end in a stalemate there – as in last 4 decades of the Lok Pal Bill saga – after days and months of debates and crusades!
Both Government and Team Anna must keep this in mind in their struggle. We all want Team Anna to succeed in bringing to fruition a strong Lok Pal Bill, passed with overwhelming majority in the Parliament. The question is - how strong the bill can possibly be – so that it is acceptable to the whole Parliament, to the Judiciary, to the State Governments and to the people?
First, let us look at the Government Lok Pal Bill. Almost no one, except the ruling Party, can accept that the Government Lok Pal Bill, can in any way, make the smallest dent on the mammoth corruption in the country. Why did the Government make such a Draft, and why is it sticking to it, despite so much of protests, beats anybody’s comprehension.
On top of that – what it did to Swami Ram Dev in its midnight swoop is an unthinkable violation of human rights. Has any body thought of at least paying some reasonable compensation to Ms Raj Bala’s family, to meet her medical expenses? A very peaceful, conscientious, protester’s life has been almost extinguished by administrative action for no justifiable earthly reason – and there is no one even to regret the incident or pay compensation. This is the indifferent India we are living in.
In respect of Team Anna too, Government has adopted the same sickening strategies. Maligning the team Anna members including Anna himself (as done in case of Swami Ram Dev) was the order of the day – from some members of ruling Party.
The attitude of the Government is regrettable in both cases. Find some irregularity on their part; at just any point of their past life, start some inspection, or investigation, so that they won’t open their mouths any further against corruption!
But, the people of the country are watching, Sir, – and people do make their judgments. It was clear Government was attempting the same technique against team Anna as it did in case of Ram Dev and his aides – but for the Huge furor raised by Opposition Parties in Parliament(mainly) – and also (partly) due to the huge support that these tactics brought in – in favour of team Anna from the Public. This is my perception. Others can differ on the emphasis.
Having said this against the Government – I must still say – Dr. Manmohan Singh, is one of the cleanest PMs India has – but he has the weakest support from within congress itself and from outside among the allies. This is the problem of governance in India today. Some alliance partners don’t listen to sane advice many times. Some within the ruling Party also may be following their example. I think, if Dr. Singh acted on his own thinking, and firmly, he would have definitely seen things in broader perspective – and Government decisions would have been much better.
But now, as events took place, the 20 and odd conditions imposed on Anna’s Fast are just unprecedented and atrocious. As it turned out, the permission letter issued smacks of the same injustice as was done to Swami Ram Dev earlier and the Government has now lost all moral right to say that Swami Ram Dev did not ask for permission. It would not have granted permission any way. So, what is the point?
Past – is any way Past. Now – what should the Government be doing? It must check its draft before the standing committee; making major changes therein in consultation with Opposition members, to make it a strong Lok Pal Bill acceptable to all and reintroduce it in the Parliament with these amendments. Or, Government can itself propose amendments in Parliament in consultation with opposition parties and send the amendments also to standing committee. Government should not be sitting on “my way, or the high way’ attitude even now, when it is clear that public do not support its bill, nor does the opposition. It can make the needed changes fast and do this gracefully enough, with the PM piloting the amendments to be sent to Standing committee.
Team Anna also, on its side, seems to be wrong and inflexible on 2 major points, both of which are very contentious. First, that the Prime Minister must come under Lok Pal and second, that the whole Judiciary must come under Lok Pal.
Regarding the Judiciary and the constitutional Framework we are functioning in, let us examine briefly.
All the world over, the need to keep the 3 state organs, namely, the Legislature, the Executive and the Judiciary independent of each other and the benefits of such an arrangement are well recognized.
In India, due to the adoption of the British system, the legislature and executive are already combined in a very injudicious manner – which, in my view, is one main cause of making all Laws which are pliable and convenient to the executive, rather than convenient and beneficial to all the parties to whom the Laws apply. Many laws are politics-based rather than need-based.
The legislature in India has been making laws which look only at convenience of executive and this is the wrong way of looking at social problems, including crimes.
For instance – if a wife and husband quarrel – the only solution in the Indian laws is –arrest the husband!
The law does not care that the family (including the wife, husband and their dependents) is totally destroyed and shattered instantly by this one action. It is just that THIS is the easiest course of action possible for the executive.
But, the need of the society is – that there should be rapprochement in the family brought about by a quasi judicial-social structure and the family must continue to live well after the rapprochement. This may look a lot more difficult and expensive but is not really so. First – you are trying for a really worthy goal; second, you are avoiding punishment in police custody and jails – most of the time without trial and later during trial (which takes years / decades) without punishment. This costs a huge sum for Government and all Parties involved without any worthwhile result. Nobody can compensate for the sufferer’s life – when he is finally acquitted!
Any way – this is not even what the complaining wife wants! Her own life suffers badly and her reputation and subsequent life – will be haunted by her complaint against her husband. The law does not look at any of these aspects. Punitive to the core – but neither pro-active nor reformative. That is how MANY OF OUR Laws are (with some good exceptions). Lok Pal bill of Government is a classic example of this ‘executive approach’ of the Government. They want it to be easy for the executive – but the law itself is intended to check the same Executive’s misdoings!
The Jan Lok Pal swings to the other extreme from the Executive version and wants the Judiciary also – especially the Higher Judiciary to be placed under Lok Pal – who is more like an executive. Let us all keep in mind that the 2 G, CWG and all other scams and prosecutions launched in recent past – are mainly due to a vigilant Higher Judiciary and their Independence under the constitution. We must be thankful to our vigilant, independent Judiciary and not subvert it in any way.
First of all, I do not think that a Lok Pal Bill even if Passed by Parliament can bring the Higher Judiciary under the Lok Pal’s net – without destroying the essential tenet of Judicial independence and thus getting struck down in the supreme court on that clause itself. But there is no doubt that, the judiciary must also submit itself to scrutiny on corruption and other malpractices to some body – formed within the Judiciary.
This can be the only way, and this must be the only way. And, this too must be done quickly – with higher judiciary’s consent. They will consent to this arrangement – is my strong perception of their feeling.
Even if Team Anna can persuade Government through its fast or any other measures – this one clause in Jan Lok Pal Bill is unlikely to succeed.
Team Anna must see the logic behind this – and seek a Judicial corruption commission headed perhaps by a Judicial Lok Pal for looking into corruption charges on members of judiciary at all levels.
The second clause on which Team Anna is laying stress is on inclusion of Prime minister under Lok Pal. Yes. Prime Minister must be brought under Lok Pal and even Dr. Manmohan Singh had indicated his personal willingness for it. But, let it be done a little carefully.
The country’s prestige and respect in the comity of world nations is important. The constitutional head can not just be brought before a Lok Pal on the allegation of every Tom, Dick and Harry – and I am sure, there will a good number of people, who want to drag him before Lok Pal for just about any reason, which may seem big in their opinion, but which may be flimsy for the nation.
The Prime Minister is being watched by all MPs of the Parliament. Any instance of major corruption on the part of the Prime Minister coming to notice of the Nation, if found serious by say 50 / 100 MPs of Parliament (Lok sabha + Rajya Sabha); and if such sufficient number of MPs (number may be fixed by Parliament) make a joint allegation to the Lok Pal with reasonable evidence or even circumstantial evidence – then, it is time for Lok Pal to look into allegations against Prime Minister. Not other wise. If we drag PM before Lok Pal on every allegation by any body – the country’s governance collapses TOTALLY and ABSOLUTELY.
Can Parliament – including the opposition Parties – agree to the provisions of Jan Lok Pal Bill of Team Anna on these Key issues? While many Opposition Parties seem to support Team Anna’s crusade against Corruption, on these 2 provisions, many of them have already said, they are not in favour of the way Jan Lok Pal Bill wants them to be.
It is not only the congress – but various opposition Parties that have said so. Congress is not in favour. Opposition also is not in favour. So, who, in Parliament, is in favour? How will these get passed? So, flexibility is needed on these issues from Team Anna’s side.
But, the Government stance on these 2 provisions – is more inflexible. Again, their stance is - it is my way, or the High way. If a PM is indulging in corruption for full 5 years – and then goes out – what is the purpose of punishing him after he goes out? How much will the Nation lose in terms of not merely the money, but in respect of the progress that should result in these 5 years? Can a country afford such a huge price? How much will the country lose in respect of the RESPECT that it commands in the international arena? So, Government stand and Team Anna stand should both come down and find a meeting point. Both can’t remain inflexible as they are right now.
In respect of the Judges, Govt wants Judicial commission? When will it come, Sir? Will it also be in similar mould? Punish after the tenure? One Judge is already under impeachment. Another has resigned. A few others are under cloud. How much more time we will lose before making effective laws for checking Judicial corruption? This too is urgent.
But, in respect of Appointments of Lok Pal and Lok Ayuktha, their removal, bringing Anti-corruption wings of CBI, CVC and even vigilance wings of administrative ministries under Lok Pal/ Lok Ayuktha, inclusion of Lok Ayuktha Bill for States simultaneously within Lok Pal Bill etc – with small changes, the Jan Lok Bill is Good for acceptance. I think, lower level functionaries can be left to Anti corruption and vigilance wings of Departments /State Governments; but these anti corruption and vigilance wings can be brought under purview of Lok Pal. Lok Pal should not be directly seeing Gr. C & D staff – which will impose huge lack of focus on major issues. But at the same time – where it wants, Lok Pal must have power to intervene.
So Flexibility must be the Mantra for the Government, for team Anna and for opposition Parties – and not merely scoring brownie points from time to time. Let Government bring out a strong Lok Pal Bill, with the consensus of Opposition, team Anna and People. Let this be a victory of ALL PEOPLE OF INDIA. The Ball is in the court of Government. It should make clear, transparent moves now – in the right direction – bringing all parties into discussion and successful evolving of a consensus Bill.
* * * Jai Hind * * *
The last Post (No.3 on fight against corruption) is at the URL :