Union Law Minister M. Veerappa Moily has described the Gujarat government's claim of having “destroyed” some police records relating to the 2002 communal riots in the State as “totally unpardonable”.
Mr. Moily, who was on a day's visit to Gujarat on Saturday, told media persons that he was not aware of the details of the documents claimed to have been destroyed by the State government, but was informed about the development by State Congress president Arjun Modhwadia.
He said such a move was “totally unpardonable” when both the G.T.-Nanavati-Akshay-Mehta judicial inquiry commission and the Supreme Court were seized of the matter and was investigating into various aspects of the 2002 communal riots. “This may amount to destruction of evidence that is totally unpardonable,” he said.
Mr. Moily also lashed out at the civil society group team led by Anna Hazare, even going to the extent of hinting that it could have some “hidden agenda” of its own. “We really don't understand what they want.” He claimed that the government had accepted almost “each of their legitimate demands” and still “they are not satisfied”.
Team Anna, he said, wanted to bypass both the parliamentary system and the Constitution and place the institution of Lokpal above all three wings of the democratic system — the executives, the elected representatives and the judiciary. “They know very well that it is not permitted in the Constitution; they also knew very well that the joint drafting committee cannot rewrite the Constitution. Yet they kept insisting on incorporating certain provisions that will mean violating the Constitution,” Mr. Moily said.
Pointing out that the government had accepted 34 of the 40 “principles” submitted by Team Anna, Mr. Moily attacked the civil society group for having “double standards.” He claimed that during the meetings, the five representatives of the group, including Mr. Hazare himself, would agree with the points raised by the government and accept the objections put forth by it on the grounds of Constitutional violations. But once out of the meeting, they would go back to accusing the government of not being serious in fighting corruption.
Claiming that the Lokpal Bill was actually the Congress party's agenda to fight against corruption and not that of the civil society group, Mr. Moily recalled that even before the last parliamentary election, party president Sonia Gandhi, in her address to the Congress plenary session, had announced the party's five-point programme, in which the creation of the Lokpal was one of the points. “The civil society group has only tried to hijack the Congress agenda,” he said.
Holding Mr. Hazare responsible for the delay in the passage of the Bill, Mr. Moily said the government had, at the instance of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, drafted the “strongest possible” Bill last year. It would, he said, have been moved and adopted in the last session of Parliament “but for the agitation launched by Mr. Hazare and his supporters”.
Reiterating the Centre's resolve to fight against corruption, Mr. Moily said the Lokpal Bill was only one of the aspects and there were several other measures that were being taken which too would go a long way in fighting corruption in high places. He named several such Bills, including the Benami Transaction (Prohibition) Bill, which was approved by the Union Cabinet only on Thursday, and the Electoral Reforms Bill, which too would help fight against corrupt practices.
Asked why the government agreed at all to incorporate civil society representatives in the drafting committee when drafting a Bill was supposed to be an administrative job, Mr. Moily said the government wanted to take “extraordinary steps” in the “extraordinary situation,” but had still failed to satisfy Team Anna.
He said the government had “no hidden agenda” on the Lokpal issue. It would now be up to Parliament to decide on the final format of the Bill, he said. He made it clear that there would be no more meetings of the joint drafting committee.