Many civil society groups have said that there were so many differences of opinion on the Jan Lokpal draft that they wish wider consultation had happened. What do you say to that?
This whole thing is taking place in a transparent and participatory manner. A huge number of public consultations have already taken place, and on the basis of that 11 drafts have already been created. Two rounds of consultations took place at the National Advisory Council and National Council for People’s Right to Information. Several suggestions emerged. I am going to be incorporating all those in a version that will be presented to the government. That is also not final. With limited resources, we could not reach out to a large number of people. Through this joint committee, we will have access to the government network so we will be able reach out to a large number of people.
Why are the five of you on the drafting committee as representatives of civil society?
The people who drafted the Jan Lokpal Bill needed to be there. Because in the committee we would need to explain each clause. There were four people who drafted this Bill. Shanti Bhushan, Prashant Bhushan, Justice Santosh Hegde and myself. Our objective is to have a completely robust anti-corruption law.
Why was it important for those who made this draft to be on the committee, why not those with divergent views as well?
We have received so many dissenting opinions in the past five months. If we were stuck on one draft we would have not come out with so many versions. If you compare the 11th version with the original, it’s completely changed. Now we needed to have some criteria internally. So we all sat down and decided that the uniform criteria is the people who originally drafted this law can be in and they should encourage more opinion through public participation. The moment you say any dissenter, there are 3,500 people who would have different opinions on different sections.
Don’t you think the committee should have been chosen through a wider process of consultation?
Then there would be a thousand dissenting opinions.
What about people who have been part of the NAC? What is the legitimacy of the NAC?
How did Sonia Gandhi select the NAC? Is there a criteria? How did Sonia Gandhi pick Manmohan Singh as prime minister? Was there a criteria?
By the same yardstick, how did these people decide they will draft the law?
We are concerned citizens of this country. Why didn’t you draft the first law? Did you draft the first law?
No, but there were others who were part of it.
Many of them were consulted and we decided that let the uniform criteria be that the people who made the first draft, let them be on board.
It was up to the government to accept it and the government accepted it.
That’s because Anna Hazare went on a fast.
And that was the rallying point. There is a deliberate attempt to create controversy out of nothing, and some of these controversies are planted by the government. I want to make an appeal to the people to forget that and get down to drafting a good anti-corruption law.
There’s also the question of two members of the committee being from the same family — Shanti and Prashant Bhushan.
The Bhushans being from the same family is a coincidence. The whole country knows their contribution to the anti-corruption movement. Shanti is the one who fought the Raj Narain vs Uttar Pradesh case that led to the Emergency in this country. Shanti was law minister. We need people who can strongly persuade the government. Both are tough negotiators.
There are concerns that if the Lokpal probes and sets up special courts to prosecute, innocents could be targeted.
The special courts are a misconception. Trials in courts drag on for years. All we have said is the Lokpal at the beginning of every year will make an estimate on the number of additional courts required. He is not directing that for this case you set up this court. He does not have the power to do that.
There is a concern that adding grievance redressal and a Whistleblowers’ Protection Act will make the Lokpal’s work unwieldy. And that it will stray into areas of governance.
When vigilance comes under Lokpal, the vigilance machinery, of all the departments in the country, will come under the Lokpal. We are not creating too many new posts. Haven’t you seen the number of changes this draft has gone through?
Revati Laul is a Correspondent with Tehelka