‘We have no confidence left in the government’

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Prashant Bhushan, one of the most prominent faces of Team Anna, explains to Revati Laul why they have hardened their position and will agitate, fast and campaign until their version of the Lokpal becomes law.

Photo: Vijay Pandey

Excerpts From An Interview

As a new version of the Lokpal is introduced in Parliament, what are the major sticking points with this version on which Team Anna will not back down and insist on pushing through or agitating over?
The sticking points are, for one, the Lokpal selection committee. The draft proposes a five-member committee. We feel this is not satisfactory. There should be more independent people. Because two members of the five — the prime minister and the Speaker of the Lok Sabha — are on the government’s side anyway. If the Leader of the Opposition combines with the government to appoint a weak or pliable Lokpal, then we will be saddled with that. We need a more broad-based committee, of the kind we have suggested.

Second, on the question of who will be the investigating agency. In this draft, the CBI will still be the investigating agency. We have been saying the CBI should either be brought under the administrative control of the Lokpal or the Lokpal should create its own investigating agency. Even in this new draft, the CBI still remains under the government’s administrative control.

Third, we have problems in this draft with the Lokpal’s jurisdiction. The lower bureaucracy, the higher judiciary, the prime minister, the MPs and the grievance redressal mechanisms. All these things are not under the Lokpal’s jurisdiction, so that’s also a problem.

What are the clauses on which Team Anna is willing to concede some ground?
We had said that we are willing to have a separate body for grievance redressal and also for judicial accountability, but a separate body means a proper one that is also independent of the government. Not a bogus body like the Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill seeks to set up. And this body doesn’t have the power to investigate and prosecute corrupt judges.

The new draft does suggest the setting up of a National Judicial Commission that will have powers to prosecute.
That doesn’t inspire any confidence because we don’t believe that the government has the political will to bring about a totally independent judicial commission and it’s clear from the draft that they have brought out by way of the Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill.

Would you also insist on grievance redressal being part of the Lokpal or is this something on which you are willing to concede some ground?
We are insisting on grievance redressal being part of the Lokpal because the Bill they have brought for redressal does not constitute a proper authority. It is conceived as a totally centralised body. And we have no confidence left in them that they will bring a proper authority that is independent and empowered and de-centralised.

If you have no confidence in the government, what about Parliament?
We are sticking to what we had suggested. We tried to give them a way out, a compromise but we found that they are not doing anything that is proper. So we will stick to our original position.

The original position being what was arrived at during Anna’s August fast?
The position being that bring the draft in line with the Jan Lokpal Bill.

What if a Bill gets passed in this session of Parliament, that is not exactly in line with the Jan Lokpal Bill?
Then we have said there will be another fast at Ramlila Maidan and then we will tour the country, at least in election-bound states, and tell the people what each party did so far, as far as this Bill is concerned.

So now Team Anna has hardened its stand to say all its points from the Jan Lokpal draft should be taken on board?
Not all. But there won’t be compromises on major points.

Revati Laul is a Special Correspondent with Tehelka.
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