‘The Lokpal will have draconian powers’

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Swapan Dasgupta Swapan Dasgupta
Political Commentator

What are the basic problems with the Jan Lokpal Bill?
Whatever little I have seen of it, it strikes me as an emotional attempt to come to terms with the fact that that the government and the official machinery have not been terribly sincere in tackling this issue of corruption. So it proceeds on that assumption that there has been a lack of official sincerity and they try to circumvent this in two or three ways. That the political class does not have the monopoly of appointment of the Lokpal. Number two, it arms the Lokpal with a set of draconian powers.

Can you substantiate that? How do you say draconian?
Well it gives the right of firstly filing an FIR, ordering the investigation in a particular way. And thirdly, they can if necessary, take preventive measures to stop the operation of the issue under scrutiny. So if for instance if they are looking at the 2G spectrum scam, they can ask for the licences to be scrapped. These are exceptional powers, granted to a body that is not a judicial body.

Have you read the draft of the Jan Lokapal Bill?
No, I haven’t.

But you are criticising it without having read it.
I’m analysing the motives behind it.

I’m asking you this because some of what you have said in your columns doesn’t bear out when you read the draft and there’s a lot of this out there.
My position is that this movement represents a spontaneous, heartfelt upsurge in civil society against rampant corruption. And they have identified Anna Hazare as a person who they feel has the moral wherewithal to address this seriously and to be an effective counterpoint to official complacency. That to my mind, is the most important feature of this movement. What is not an important feature is the alternative Lokpal Bill or their 12 drafts.

What worries you about this Jan Lokpal Bill?
There is one portion of the Bill that goes into the issue the process of governance. Now as I spoke to Prashant Bhushan, it seemed to me that what he was defining as corruption could also mean policy guidelines. I am wary of any movement that intrudes into the realm of policy. The debate is a wider issue. There is a debate on what is the role of the political class in confronting corruption and what is the role of the non-elected people in being a watchdog. How do we strike an appropriate balance?

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