Since the day Anna Hazare sat on fast at Jantar Mantar demanding the passage of a strong Lokpal bill, you have emerged as one of the most vocal critics of the anti-graft ombudsman proposed by Team Anna. You have expressed your disagreement through various newspaper articles and TV interviews.
In this scenario, I doubt if many people know that it was you who began the process of drafting of the Lokpal bill, which has now caught the imagination of the nation.
In September last, you chaired a meeting of the national campaign for people’s right to information (NCPRI) meeting where you formed a committee to draft a comprehensive anti-corruption law. You assigned the task to Arvind Kejriwal. He consulted advocate Prashant Bhushan, Karnataka Lokayukta justice Santosh Hegde and was ready with a draft by October end.
This is how, as you would recall, began the process of formulating the Jan Lokpal bill- the people’s version of anti- graft body.
The draft of the bill was discussed in your presence during two NCPRI meetings and a meeting of the national advisory council (NAC) sub-group, all held in the first week of April. NCPRI circulated the minutes of its meetings through a press release dated April 5, 2011.
The press release tell us that barring two points – what kind of public grievances should the Lokpal address and how open should the institution be for public scrutiny, there was an agreement on all other points.
The gathering which included yourself, Nikhil Dey, Shekhar Singh and members of civil society agreed that there was an urgent need for a strong Lokpal bill to fight corruption in the country; such a legislation should be enacted as soon as possible; the purpose of the draft law was to ensure prompt investigation into allegations of corruption against all public servants and time-bound prosecution in fit cases so that the corrupt are held accountable for their actions.
Till that stage you and the NCPRI supported the draft Lokpal bill prepared by Arvind Kejriwal in consultation with Prashant Bhushan and justice Santosh Hegde.
But your opinion and that of NCPRI changed in subsequent discussions on the Lokpal bill.
In the last week of April, a document titled “Towards a basket of anti-corruption and grievance redress measures”, prepared by Shekhar Singh, was circulated among the NCPRI members as its official position on the Lokpal bill.
Surprisingly, in the NAC meeting on April 28 you presented this document and not the draft discussed in April first week (prepared by Arvind Kejriwal).
This was also the time when Congress general secretary Digvijay Singh demanded that NAC members Aruna Roy and Harsh Mander be included in the joint drafting committee.
Since then, you have been promulgating these grievance redress measures as your take on the Lokpal bill. You have conveyed the same through media.
The draft which you have now debunked was formulated after elaborate consultations among the civil society members. But you chose to present before the NAC, the draft prepared by Shekhar Singh on which there were no consultations at all. Why?
You were of the view, as per the press release issued on April 5, that there was an urgent need for a strong Lokpal bill to fight corruption in the country.
Then how come this very Jan Lokpal became a “Frankenstein” and a threat to democracy as referred by you in the articles which appeared in the media?
According to the consultations in April, the anti- graft body would investigate into allegations of corruption against all public servants and would conduct prosecution in a time-bound manner. “The Lok Pal and Lok Ayuktas will directly receive and investigate complaints of corruption and undertake prosecution against public servants in fit cases,” said the release.
Now you, Nikhil Dey and others in the NCPRI say that the Lokpal should deal with corruption of only politicians and not of bureaucrats. Why this change of opinion?
You say that the setting of a timeline by Anna Hazare for the passage of the bill (August 15) is unrealistic and you refer to the Right to Information (RTI) Act was subjected to nine years of consultations.
What happened to your earlier view that “these discussions (on the anti- corruption body) will take place in a serious and urgent matter so that this legislation can be enacted as soon as possible”?
The basket of measures which you support now, says that the judiciary should be kept out of Lokpal and instead we should push for Amendments in the Judicial Accountability and Standards Bill, which is currently before the government.
This is a stand completely different the one you took in the meetings on April 3 and 4. In fact, in the meeting it was agreed that to initiate prosecution against judges, the Lokpal would follow the same procedure as was followed for public servants. Why are you now for the exclusion of judiciary from the Lokpal?
What we know is your current stand on the Lokpal bill. But kindly make an effort to let us know what made you take such drastic change of views on such a crucial issue.
This appeared on http://www.governancenow.com on July 18, 2011