Social activist Arvind Kejriwal said that even he had initially refused to be part of the drafting panel as it was important to have an effective Bill.
Civil society's version of the Lokpal Bill will be the basis for a stringent anti-corruption law, social activist and member of the joint drafting panel Arvind Kejriwal said.
“The Jan Lokpal Bill is going to be the basis of discussion,” Mr. Kejriwal said in an interview to CNN-IBN's Karan Thapar on Sunday.
The government last week acceded to the demands of veteran Gandhian Anna Hazare after thousands of people supported his fast for the passage of a comprehensive anti-corruption bill. The joint committee has been notified to draft the bill, whose civil society members include Mr. Hazare, Mr. Kejriwal, Justice Santosh Hegde, Prashant Bhushan and his father Shanti Bhushan.
Mr. Kejriwal defended the inclusion of his friends and associates in the committee, rather than getting other civil society members.
“We drafted the Jan Lokpal Bill. Therefore, these people can talk clause by clause with the government,” he said.
He denied that they were being narrow-minded in rejecting any formulation outside the Jan Lokpal Bill.
A former Indian Revenue Service officer-turned-RTI activist, Mr. Kejriwal denied that the activists' version of the bill concentrated unprecedented powers in the office of the Lokpal.
“Now, the Lokpal has broadly four functions — vigilance, criminal, public grievance and whistle-blower protection,” he said, adding that the powers given to the Lokpal were the same as those with the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and Income Tax authorities.
Mr. Kejriwal also defended widening the scope of the Lokpal to bring public grievance within its ambit. “Grievance had to be read with the citizen's charter... Each department has to say that it is going to do this much work in this much time.”
He pointed out that bill was still a work in progress. “We had 12 changes so far, with the 13th one coming next week,” he said.
Mr. Kejriwal felt that the method adopted by Mr. Hazare was the only way to make the government act on the bill.
“I am a citizen and I am feeling injustice. If I want to raise [my] voice, I go and petition politicians, petition bureaucracy, nobody listens. What do they do?”
Referring to B.R. Ambedkar's call for dropping the “grammar of anarchy,” Mr. Kejriwal said that while he had “great respect” for him, the situation in the country was very different.
“The situation that exists in India [today] is worse than in British times,” he added.
He rejected the argument that Mr. Hazare's hunger strike opened the door for other groups to “blackmail” the government.
“If someone has a viewpoint, then he goes and fasts unto death. The rest of society watches and sees if those views are correct or not,” said Mr. Kejriwal.
The social activist also denied that the movement undermined democracy and politics.
“I agree that those slogans [of all politicians being thieves] were hyberboles. Anna Hazare said that we will behave well with everybody. We have great respect for every individual. We tackle issues, not individuals,” he added.