Tag: Lokpal Bill

No Lokpal

On 29/12/2011 Rajya Sabha was to vote on the Lokpal and the Lokayuktas Bill, 2011. It was adjourned sine die without vote. Parliament was called to sit on 27, 28 and 29 of December 2011 to pass Lokpal Bill. Lok Sabha passed it. Rajya Sabha did not.

Winter session was supposed to end on 22/12/2011. Anna Hazare had announced his three days fast beginning on 27/12/2011 if the bill had not been passed by then and thereafter three days of jail bharo andolan. If the Parliament passed Lokpal Bill by 22/12/2011 India Against Corruption would have observed gratitude day and held thanksgiving party on 27/12/2011. Winter session saw many disruptions and waste of many days. Many parties changed their positions on Lokpal Bill. There were 17 dissent notes in the standing committee report. There was all party meeting.

Anna Hazare’s fast was supposed to take place at Azad Maidan. It was shifted to MMRDA Grounds. Three government agencies had objected to fast at Azad Maidan. Anna Hazare’s health was not good. He had fever. India Against Corruption expected large crowds on 27/12/2011. That did not take place and many people called it flop show. Azad Maidan would have been a better place. Being close to Churchgate station many people would have come there during the day.

Lok Sabha passed Lokpal Bill as the government wanted and not as Anna Hazare Group wanted. Lok Sabha did not pass constitution amendment bill giving constitutional status to Lokpal as the votes in favour of amendment did not reach the half way mark. Congress blamed BJP. BJP said Congress should look within itself and 16 Congress MPs were absent. Sushma Swaraj said it was not for BJP to fulfil Rahul Gandhi’s dream of constitutional status to Lokpal.

On 28/12/2012 at 6 p.m. Anna Hazare called off his fast and jail bharo andolan. Around two lakh people had registered to go to jail. The MPs were jubilant. They were under no pressure.

Now TMC changed course. It had voted for the bill in Lok Sabha. It now wanted amendments to the bill. It wanted references to Lokayuktas deleted. It claimed it did not know about Lokayuktas. The bill was the Lokpal and the Lokayuktas Bill, 2011. TMC had a member in the standing committee. It had a cabinet minister and the bill was discussed in cabinet. The bill was given to MPs on 22/12/2011. It was discussed in all party meeting. To say TMC members did not know about references to Lokayuktas in the bill is not credible. TMC moved amendments in Rajya Sabha.

As per one report there were 203 amendments, another report said 187. Suddenly there was lot of talk of federalism. There was not much talk of ending corruption. The government did not have the numbers to pass the bill in Rajya Sabha. It did not agree to extend the session beyond midnight. The house adjourned. The purpose of extension of winter session was not served.

Pawan Kumar Bansal said the government wanted time to go through 187 amendments. That was misleading as some amendments were counted multiple times as for example “Delete clauses 66-97” was considered 32 amendments. Congress should have put the bill to vote. It did not have the numbers and it would not have been blamed for failure. The government would not have fallen if the bill was defeated.

Hamid Ansari was guilty of allowing the debate to drag on. He did not answer when Sitaram Yechury asked when the voting would take place. He should have stopped discussion at 11 p.m. and put the bill to vote.

Fight against corruption is tough and long. Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty. There are many vested interests, some of them journalists, who do not want corruption to end. MPs behave the way the nobles behaved in France before French Revolution.

Lokpal deadline

Where there is will there is a way. If Congress wants to pass a strong Lokpal Bill it can do. If it does not want to pass a strong Lokpal Bill it finds ways avoid it. In that case the passing of Lokpal Bill depends on how strong is the will of people who want a strong Lokpal Bill. If their will is stronger than that of Congress they will succeed. Anna Hazare Group wants Lokpal Bill passed in the winter session of Parliament which gets over on 22/12/2011. Otherwise he will start his indefinite fast on 27/12/2011 and has asked people to fill jails and sit in front of houses of MPs from 1 January 2012 onwards. This time the fast is to be from Azad Maidan where his previous fasts were successful.

Various excuses are given against the passing of Lokpal Bill. Some say Anna Hazare is inflexible. Anna Hazare has been flexible. He wanted Lokpal Bill passed by 15/8/2011. He went on fast on 16/8/2011. He withdrew the fast after the promise to pass it in winter session. The government must keep its promise.

Some say Lokpal Bill should not be passed in a hurry. Lokpal Bill has come and gone for the past 43 years and no hurry means it will be discussed for the next 43 years by which time most of those who are MPs now will be dead.

One funny argument is that if winter session is extended it will clash with Christmas and will trample upon the feelings of Christians. Passing a bill does not take even a minute. Once 17 bills were passed in 12 minutes. Lokpal Bill can be passed by 22/12/2011 and if necessary winter session can be extended by two days. This year Christmas comes on Sunday and not even a day will be lost because of Christmas. If more discussion is needed the session can continue till 31/12/2011 when winter session should come to an end because after that it is another year and a first session of a year should begin with President’s address. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam violated that constitutional provision in 2004 under advice from NDA government. At least one Governor has similarly violated the constitution.

Some say Anna Hazare is holding the country to ransom. When terrorists abduct a minister’s daughter or hijack an aeroplane and demand the release of prisoners they hold the country to ransom. Anna Hazare has not done that.

Some say Anna Hazare should not dictate terms to the government. If industrialists dictate terms to government as to who should be telecom minister or who should not be petroleum minister it is fine with the government.

Someone said Congress is sincere about Lokpal Bill. If Congress says it does not want a strong Lokpal and will not bring a strong Lokpal Bill and acts according then also it is sincere.

Lokpal Search Committee

The standing committee on Lokpal bill has recommended that the search committee for Lokpal shall comprise at least seven members and shall ensure 50% representation to SCs and/or STs and/or OBCs and/or minorities and/or women. Parliament should not accept this recommendation.

In India any person can reach any position. Dalits have held positions of President and Vice President of India, CJI and Speaker of Lok Sabha. If a Dalit woman can become chief minister of Uttar Pradesh any Dalit can reach any position. Historical marginalization is not a reason for reservations.

There are various groups within communities. Among Dalits some claim to be Mahadalits and demand reservations within reservations. Many communities who are not OBCs want to be OBCs. Uttar Pradesh elections are coming near and there is talk of giving reservation for Muslims in OBC category.

There are many religious communities that come under minorities. Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Bahais can demand representation for their respective communities. Within women there can be demand for quotas for SCs, STs, OBCs and minorities.

If demand for reservation in search committee is granted there will be demand of reservation in selection committee and in Lokpal which is expected to be a nine member body. Supreme Court began with eight judges and over the years the number increased to 26. That should not happen to Lokpal.

For selection of Lokpal members there should be advertisements on government web sites, All India Radio and Doordarshan. There should be no advertisements in newspapers and magazines. That will save money. Only those who apply should be called for interview. Among other things Lokpal members shall be less than 60 years of age when they apply and retirement age should be 65. It is not necessary that they should have been judges or lawyers. Criminologists may be preferred. Lokpal should formulate its procedure. There need not be prosecution and defence lawyers. Lokpal can question the accused and deliver judgment. There should be no appeal on Lokpal judgment.