Posts Tagged ‘Ambika Soni

Congress hits back, calls Anna Hazare corrupt

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Social activist Anna Hazare and the government appear to be headed for a showdown with the anti-corruption crusader on Sunday announcing that he would continue his indefinite fast until his name was cleared of corruption charges levelled against him or an FIR was lodged against him. This would be even if the government accepted all suggestions made by him on the Lokpal Bill, now before the Parliamentary Standing Committee.

The announcement came hours after the government described his move to sit on a dharna as “undemocratic and an affront to Parliament” and the Congress accused him of indulging in corrupt practices and maladministration as concluded in the Justice (retd.) P.B. Sawant Commission report in 2005. The Commission was set up to probe allegations of corruption against four Ministers of Maharashtra and Mr. Hazare got his name included for scrutiny after one of the Ministers made allegations against him.

Addressing a news conference here, Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal said while the individuals had a right to protest, the choice of time and place could be the prerogative of authorities keeping in mind the public order. He said fundamental rights came with duties. As the Lok Pal Bill was now with Parliament, there was not much the government could do about it now.

However, Mr. Hazare said he would go ahead with his hunger strike on Tuesday at the Jayaprakash Narayan Park in Delhi, but said it would be peaceful. He appealed to his followers to ensure that there was no violence or damage to public property. “If there is police action, court arrest peacefully and be prepared for lathis and bullets. It is a long-drawn struggle.”

Unhappy over the tone and tenor of Mr. Hazare’s letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Saturday, the government and the Congress took on the anti-corruption crusader and said “there was nothing more undemocratic than the stand taken by him.”

Congress spokesman Manish Tewari said it was not only an insult to the Prime Minister but also to the national flag. Mr. Hazare had, in his letter, used harsh words against Dr. Singh while seeking his intervention in the allotment of place to hold the dharna. Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni said not even the Opposition had pointed a finger at the Prime Minister’s honesty and integrity. The government and the Congress questioned the source of “A company’s” funding and suspected “foreign hand” in the funding. Responding sharply to the charge, RTI activist and Mr. Hazare’s aide, Arvind Kejriwal, said the names of donors were available on the website. He challenged the Congress to put up the names of its donors on the website within 24 hours.


Congress nervous over Hazare’s fast: Team Anna

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Anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare on Sunday faced fresh attack with Congress saying he should first clarify “serious” findings against him of a Commission that probed graft charges while Government said his move was “undemocratic” and “unacceptable“.

Hitting out at the Gandhian who has planned to go on an indefinite fast in Delhi from Tuesday, Government also said the right to protest does not mean right to protest at the place of your choice.

The Government rejected the contention by the social activist that it was crushing his Constitutional rights by not allowing his protest at a desired venue and said the demand itself was unconstitutional and the protest at this time was an “affront” to Parliament.

“The right to protest does not mean right to protest at your choice. There is no right to protest at place of your choice and convenience,” Union HRD Minister Kapil Sibal said.

Addressing a news conference in Delhi,Mr. Sibal and Union Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni slammed Mr. Hazare for his letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Saturday, saying the language used in the letter is not Gandhian from any point of view.

Claiming that the “moral core” of Mr. Hazare has been “ripped apart” by the Justice P B Sawant Commission, Congress spokesman Manish Tewari said, “The fast from August 16 has nothing to do with either the issue of corruption or the Lokpal bill.”

The Commission had probed corruption charges levelled by Hazare in 2003 against four ministers in the then Maharashtra government.

“The fast from August 16 has nothing to do with either the issue of corruption or the Lokpal bill. If that was the case Hazare would have first clarified the grave charges.

What is his clarification about the serious findings…The nation wants to know,” Tewari said, adding, “I think Hazare and his associates will need to answer conclusions of Sawant Commission.”

“Challenging Parliament”

Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee said the social activist was challenging the constitutional authority of Parliament and asserted there is no third authority to make law.

He trained his guns on Mr. Hazare saying nobody can compel that it has to draft the law as per his desire.

“It is for Parliament to decide. What Anna Hazare is doing, he is challenging the constitutional authority of Parliament, which is not acceptable,” Mukherjee told reporters in Kolkata.

“So far the Constitution is concerned, it is not given to any individual. So far the laws made under List I of the Constitution, Parliament and Parliament alone is the competent authority to make law. So far the List II and concurrent list of the Constitution are concerned, it is the state assembly who are to make the law, there is no third authority to make law,” he said.

Asking if Anna can give a “guarantee” in writing that one instrument like Lokpal will end corruption, Soni said,” “people are being misled that corruption is out as soon as Lokpal is in.”

Reacting to Mr. Hazare’s allegation that the government was putting impediments in his proposed fast, Mr. Sibal said, “the right to protest does not mean right to protest at a place of your choince. There is no right to protest at place of your choice and convenience.”

He also cited judgements of the Supreme Court and the Delhi High court to support his stand.

“The protest is thoroughly unconstitutional…It is an affront to Parliament” he said questioning the purpose of the fast and alleging that there are some “other powers” behind all this and it has a different purpose.

Accusing Mr. Hazare of attempting to bring instability in the country, Congress spokesman Manish Tewari was also critical of Mr. Hazare for the tone and tenor of his letter to the Prime Minister and accused him of crossing all limits of decency and decorum.

Nowhere has CAG held PMO, Sheila guilty: UPA

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Still for an Interview conducted with Sheila D...

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The United Progressive Alliance government and the Congress on Monday vigorously defended the Prime Minister’s Office and Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit against accusations made by the Opposition, led by the Bharatiya Janata Party, that they had been indicted by the Comptroller and Auditor-General.

Nowhere in the CAG’s report on the Commonwealth Games had the PMO or Ms. Dikshit been found guilty of any wrongdoing, said the government and the Congress.

On a day the Opposition used the CAG report to force an adjournment of both Houses of Parliament without allowing them to conduct any business, the Congress’ response at two separate press conferences was sharp and pointed, as it asked people to read the report carefully.

‘CAG exceeded brief’

Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari even went so far as to question the bona fides of the CAG. Pointing out that the CAG was “only an auditing body,” he said it had no “remit to comment on an appointment process” or “on policy choices that a government may or may not make.” When the CAG commented on the appointment process in the context of the Games, “it erred.”

Mr. Tewari wanted to know why three crucial dates had escaped the CAG’s attention: September 11, 2003, when the Host City contract for the CWG was approved by the National Democratic Alliance Cabinet; November 13, 2003, when the Host City contract was signed; and November 1, 2004, when the India Olympic Association general assembly — “which consisted of many eminences of the NDA” — decided to elect Suresh Kalmadi chairperson of Organising Committee.

Questioning the CAG’s intentions, he said: “Were these omissions intentional or was it a case of oversight, given that two of [these] took place during the NDA’s time?”

Fait accompli

The PMO under the UPA regime had “no role” in the appointment of Mr. Kalmadi as it was a “fait accompli,” because of documents signed by the NDA government. “If there is any alleged financial loss, then the Public Accounts Committee needs to look into that,” Mr. Tewari added.

Meanwhile, Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal told journalists shortly after the Group of Ministers on the media met that there was no indictment of the PMO in the CAG report: “There is only a reference [to the PMO] … and a statement of facts.”

Law Minister Salman Khurshid and Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni were present at the press conference.

Media restraint urged

Advising the media to exercise self-regulation and check facts, Mr. Sibal pointed out that media organisations were reporting that the PMO and Ms. Dikshit had been indicted by the CAG report, even though that was not true. “There may be a reference to different people but a reference does not mean indictment,” Ms. Soni added, stressing, “there is no indictment of any high office, much less that of the PMO.”

Mr. Sibal, however, parried questions whether he could say categorically that there was absolutely no criticism of Ms. Dikshit in the CAG report. “You should let us know if there is any particular passage which you find as indictment [of Dikshit].”

Mr. Tewari, however, was more direct saying that there was “not even a whisper of an insinuation” against Ms. Dikshit

Cabinet approves draft of Lokpal Bill; PM, judiciary kept out

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Arvind Kejriwal

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The Prime Minister and the judiciary have been excluded from the ambit of the Lokpal Bill.

According to this draft, the body will have a chairperson and eight members, including four judicial members.

Information minister Ambika Soni said the chairperson would be a serving or retired Supreme Court judge. She said the Cabinet had approved the draft with minor changes.

Civil society members have expressed their unhappiness with the draft. Kiran Bedi sais, the current government draft was fractured and unhealthy. She said the bill was not in favour of the common man.

The decision to review the Lokpal Bill comes as social activist Read the rest of this entry »