THE LAWFILE

‘Bill designed to protect the corrupt and victimise protesters’

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Dr. Kiran Bedi @ SWIM Conference. SWIM - Succe...

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The gulf between the government and Team Anna widened on Thursday, with the civil society members burning copies of the Lokpal Bill, and Union Ministers P. Chidambaram, Kapil Sibal and V. Narayansamy terming the act an “affront” to Parliament.

As the government tabled the Bill in the Lok Sabha, social activist Anna Hazare, in his native village of Ralegaon Sidhi in Maharashtra, and his team here burnt copies. They said the Bill was designed “to protect the corrupt and victimise, harass and punish those who raise their voice against corruption.” Some people later burnt the copies at Jantar Mantar here.

Asserting that he would go ahead with his fast here from August 16, Mr. Hazare said he felt cheated as the government had persuaded him to give up his agitation in April, promising a strong, effective and comprehensive Bill, but came up with a weak piece of legislation that served no purpose. (However, till Thursday, Mr. Hazare has not been given permission to go head with his protest at any venue in New Delhi.)

Leading the protest at Kaushambi in Ghaziabad, Arvind Kejriwal, Prashant Bhushan, Kiran Bedi and Swami Agnivesh said the government’s version of the Bill was “anti-poor and anti-aam aadmi,” as it did not deal with day-to-day corruption and contained “draconian provisions” against whistle-blowers.

“We challenge the authority of the democratically elected government of the day, which has started behaving in a unilateral and dictatorial manner,” Mr. Kejriwal said.

Claiming that the Bill was structurally flawed, he said that while excluding the office of Prime Minister, the higher judiciary and MPs, it did not cover the lower bureaucracy also and lacked a grievance redress mechanism to deal with everyday corruption that had taken root. “Parliament has been given a fait accompli Bill, which is structurally so weak that even the standing committee cannot make many changes.”

‘Sarkari Bill’

Mr. Bhushan said five of the nine members on the committee to appoint the Lokpal were “sarkari.” “Not only that, the removal of the Lokpal is totally in the hands of the government. As soon as the removal of the Lokpal is recommended, the government can issue orders of suspension, so how is the Lokpal independent?”

Mr. Kejriwal and Mr. Bhushan were members of the joint drafting committee, which was to work out the draft of a Lokpal Bill. But that exercise failed as there was no meeting ground between the government and civil society members on crucial issues.

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