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Updated: August 22, 2011 10:26 IST

Congress enlarges debate on Hazare protest

Special Correspondent
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Congress spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi. File Photo: Shiv Kumar Pushpakar
The Hindu Congress spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi. File Photo: Shiv Kumar Pushpakar

Free speech enshrined in the Constitution comes with reasonable restrictions: Singhvi

Facing a combined Opposition onslaught for denying social activist Anna Hazare the democratic right to peaceful protest, the Congress on Tuesday sought to enlarge the debate on the approach of the civil society and its repercussions on democracy.

Party spokesman Abhishek Singhvi said: “We want to ask all political parties to consider what they are doing for transient political objective and whether they support regular joint drafting of bills; do they support indefinite fast-unto-death after a Bill has become property of Parliament; and will they support the insistence by any slice of civil society on only one version [of the Lokpal] bill?”

Consider repercussions

He said political parties that were together on the issue should also consider its repercussions on democracy since free speech enshrined in the Constitution came with reasonable restrictions.

Mr. Singhvi attempted to justify the arrest of Mr. Hazare as a consequence of not willing to challenge the Delhi Police order in the courts for placing ‘reasonable restrictions' on him and then violating the law.

While conceding that the police was not “infallible” in applying the reasonable restrictions that went with the right to free speech and protest under the Constitution, Mr. Singhvi said remedy against it rested with a court of law.

‘Political expediency'

Asserting that the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government took “stronger and concrete” action to check graft in public life than any previous regimes, the Congress said the current political debate appeared to be the result of political expediency.

He said that besides signing 50 bilateral agreements with foreign countries to regulate black money and setting up of a high-powered committee to check it, the Centre was working to reduce the discretionary powers vested in decision- making since it bred nepotism and had taken strong action against Union Ministers, law-makers and senior corporate executives while sincerely pursuing the Lokpal Bill during the last three months.

‘No magic wand'

Resonating Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's Independence Day address, Mr. Singhvi said there was no magic wand to eliminate corruption and likened it to a process and not a destination. However, he parried a spate of questions on whether the Congress considered Mr. Hazare as “corrupt,” as stated by his colleague Manish Tewari who cited the Justice P.B. Sawant Commission report.

Mr. Singhvi, who heads the Parliamentary Committee examining the Lokpal Bill, said members of Mr. Hazare's team, who were part of the drafting committee, appeared before the panel and could appear again.

Mohan Prakash, who is in-charge of party affairs including the key State of Maharashtra, said that just as the Parliamentary panel met Team Anna, it would also like to seek the opinion of other sections on the Lokpal Bill. “There is no justification for Anna Hazare to go on fast, thereby denying others the right to express their views,” he said. The current campaign was also affecting the image of the country.

Manmohan Singh's assertion that laws should be made in parliament is true, but when it come to Lokpal there is a problem. Because most of the people both ruling and opposition who are supposed to come up with a strong anti-graft bill itself are corrupt. How can you trust a corrupt system to come up with a solution to clean thenselves up. People have no trust in the parliamentary system which Manmohan is reffering to. If it had the will to do it they should debated on the contentious issues and should have come up with a consesus long time back.

from:  Isaac P
Posted on: Aug 18, 2011 at 00:20 IST

Singhvi should stop acting against his conscience and dictats/ethics of his original profession. Like Mani he should call a spade a spade. Why is he afraid? Is he under threat? Is he also spineless like the PM and his team ? If he starts speaking the truth he will not only help the country but also the congress party,to which he belongs. All should pray to GOD to give the poor threatened PM and ministers the strength to stand up against the threat, even if it is to their lives.

from:  Ramamurthi
Posted on: Aug 17, 2011 at 22:08 IST

The country's image is tarnished not because of the Anna Hazare's campaign. Are scams like commonwealth games scam ,2G scam etc giving our country better image ? Is Anna responsible for that ? If government was serious about corruption,a strong ,flawless lokpal bill could have been presented in the parliament. Not the current draft of joke pal bill.

from:  SIVA
Posted on: Aug 17, 2011 at 11:32 IST

Not everybody agrees with coercive tactics of Anna Hazare but perhaps this is the only language which govt of the day understand! Arresting a 74-yr old man in the name of maintaining peace and tranquility is the most absurd logic which can be given. This is one of the most insecure, undemocratic and indecisive govt in recent times. First they give a long rope to civil society and then try to crush their voices. It happened with Ramdev and now trying to do the same with Anna Hazare. The larger question is, whose interest does UPA represent? only industrialists? Why can't a common man raise a voice? Differences on lokpal is a different issue and needs to be discussed threadbare but suppressing the voice of protesters is totally unconstitutional and unpardonable.

from:  Sanjay
Posted on: Aug 17, 2011 at 10:48 IST

Common people who are short of forums to vent their anger on the day to day issues concerning them have found a voice in the form of Anna Hazare. Corruption is not the only reason for the massive support for his anti-corruption crusade but it has given a strong case to express the overall public mood that is increasingly growing against the successive failures of the UPA-I & II governments. Missing to read the general public sentiment will be suicidal for the congress in the very near future. Three more years as a ruling party is a really hard bet with its present authoritarian ways. Hope they respect the sentiments of the people.

from:  Prasan
Posted on: Aug 17, 2011 at 10:16 IST

Mr Singhvi must have heard of and be familiar with the phrase 'empty promises'. We are yet to see any concrete action as he suggests has been taken. Rather what we saw was undue delay in taking action against tainted ministers, the mysterious death in prison of ministers' associates and the bail orders for India's richest, albeit illegally, man. After these 'spectacular successes' in the anti-corruption sector, does he really expect us to believe these words that almost every minister scalded by the issue of corruption utters?

from:  Aritra Gupta
Posted on: Aug 17, 2011 at 09:17 IST

Mr.Singhvi like most of its party members have failed to assess that any party who seems to give an impression that they are Governing to support rampant corruption and act as great protector of corrupt Ministers, MPs, Industrialists are species who will vanish in Indian political arena.How can Singhvi be given chairmanship to examine Lokpal bill. He is deaf and dum as far as the larger intent of the people of this country on corruption is concerned.Indians want to give a befitting funeral to corruption and political parties which deems to support corruption by their action directly or indirectly.

from:  Prof. T.M.Vinod Kumar
Posted on: Aug 17, 2011 at 07:08 IST

Agree with Congress' views. Anna should stop this nautanki and let Parliament do its work.

from:  faiyaz ahmed
Posted on: Aug 17, 2011 at 04:46 IST

Mr. Singhvi,Answer to your question is to go for a referendum, monitored by election commission and stick by the outcome. That will solve the issue once and for all.

from:  Radhamani Sridhar
Posted on: Aug 17, 2011 at 03:16 IST

Cong is still trying to fool the people. Public is supporting Hazare because they trusted his version of lokpal bill. Lakhs of people are supporting voluntarily and that support is coming from heart. When public support comes from heart, it is difficult for Govt to handle.. Hazare is now stronger than ever after this incident.People have seen how cong humiliated the Hazare team during the discussions on lokpal bill. Finally they brought their own junk lokpal bill to parliament..People are smarter than what Cong think.Hazare's next project is going to hit harder.. Electroral reforms.. Cong leaders are winning with the help of EVMs.. best example is Chidambaram. Cong govt shd listen to hazare if it is really serious about anti corruption.

from:  Ramesh
Posted on: Aug 17, 2011 at 03:07 IST

I think Congress is thinking in terms of logistics of making a lokpal bill, forgetting that it slept all through till the problem became huge and impossible to handle. It appears that what Annaji, Ramdev etc trying to project is about the retrospective aspect in Lokpal (jan version) rather than the prospective (Gov) aspect of the bill. This is becoming more glaringly apparent, which to me is a sad state of affairs. Govt should have studied the retrospective aspect and submitted it to parliament. Thats why public anger on Indian streets everywhere is a true reflection of this feel. Most readers comments on news covering lokpal relate to the retrospective aspect in the bill. Because, whatever gov is at centre, lokpal should have capability to go into past also as new evidences/light emerges. Gov lokpal draft doesn't seem to reflect this retrospective aspect in that gov version.

from:  vidyaji
Posted on: Aug 17, 2011 at 03:01 IST
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