Former Karnataka Lokayukta Justice (retd) Santosh Hegde was part of the drafting committee that gave shape to the original Jan Lokpal Bill. Today, he is willing to accept the Congress-led UPA government’s version of the Lokpal Bill even though his former comrade and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader Arvind Kejriwal refuses to do so. Justice Hegde admits that the UPA government is trying to push the anti-corruption Bill with an eye on the 2014 General Election. However, Justice Hegde tells Imran Khan that it’s better to have some form of the Lokpal institution in place rather than wait for the perfect Lokpal.
Edited excerpts from an interview:
AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal has termed the UPA government’s version of the Lokpal ‘weak’ and ‘ineffective’. Do you agree with him?
I’m of the view that Kejriwal should accept what is being offered by Parliament. Let us accept whatever the Parliament gives now; let us see how it functions. If we find that this is not enough, the institution is not functioning well, then we can always demand for more changes. Why miss this opportunity of getting this Bill passed and creating an institution? At the moment, creating an institution is absolutely more necessary and important than asking for a perfect institution.
Kejriwal says the Lokpal Bill will not prevent corruption; instead, it will ‘protect the corrupt’. Is his interpretation correct?
I don’t think anybody can stop corruption. At the best, through institutions like the Jan Lokpal, we will be able to control corruption to some extent. But to say that the Jan Lokpal will completely eradicate corruption from society, is extreme. I expect the Bill to be passed. In what form it will be passed is anybody’s guess. Due to the prevailing circumstances, the government is compelled to bring up the Lokpal issue. For that matter, even the Opposition parties can’t oppose it. Otherwise, they may not be able to face the public in the 2014 polls.
Social activist Anna Hazare has endorsed the revised anti-graft legislation placed before the Rajya Sabha. Do you agree with him?
Before Anna, I had endorsed the legislation being offered by Parliament. We need time to see how it functions. If there are any flaws, we can demand for amendments. But to say that only our version of the Bill is strong and what is being offered is not, I think that is unconstitutional. And I don’t agree with Kejriwal on that. Anna’s endorsement of the Lokpal Bill is a good move.
Kejriwal claims that both the BJP and the Congress are misleading Anna Hazare. Your views?
I don’t agree with Kejriwal on that.
Do you think that AAP’s success in Delhi can be replicated in the General Election across the country, especially Karnataka?
I think the results in Delhi were fantastic. And I think AAP has a great chance in other metropolises too; especially where people are aware of their democratic rights and want change. In Bengaluru, I think AAP has better chances; especially the Bangalore South constituency. AAP also has better chances in Mangalore. But I’m not over-optimistic.
If there is an offer from Kejriwal, will you contest the Lok Sabha election on an AAP ticket?
I had decided a long time ago that I will not join politics. If I had to, I would have joined AAP when it was formed or any other mainstream political party. I have taken a conscious decision that I will not join politics. I will always remain outside politics. I would rather be a watchdog.
The Supreme Court has come under flak for its verdict on Section 377. What is your response?
I honestly feel that the Supreme Court has merely looked at Section 377 objectively and not interpreted it based on personal opinions. If the judges were against changes, why would they recommend that the law be amended by Parliament? I agree that the society has changed and the judiciary too should reflect those changes. But the law has to come from Parliament. For more than 100 years, nobody challenged this law, which is now being considered ultra vires. But it has stood the test of time. The question of morality, though, is different. There are so many isms out there; if they start demanding changes in laws, calling them ultra vires, then there will be chaos. But the law needs to be up to date with social thinking.