Says social activist, his associates were held because government apprehended breach of peace
Even as Gandhian Anna Hazare's anti-corruption crusade continued, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told Parliament on Wednesday that the path chosen by the social activist to “impose his Jan Lokpal Bill upon Parliament is totally misconceived and fraught with grave consequences for our parliamentary democracy.”
Making an identical statement in the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha, he acknowledged that Mr. Hazare might be “inspired by high ideals in his campaign to set up a strong and effective Lokpal,” but clarified that the issue between the government and the social activist was not one of different attitudes to fighting corruption. “In my Independence Day address, I spoke at length about the need to deal effectively with corruption.”
Assuring Parliament that “we are determined to provide a government that is transparent, accountable and responsive at all times and determined to fight corruption,” Dr. Singh referred to his Independence Day address, wherein he had stated that there was no “magic wand” by which the menace could be made to disappear. He invited all sections of Parliament to join hands with the government to deal with the problem.
On the events related to the arrest on Tuesday of Mr. Hazare and his supporters, Dr. Singh said a functional democracy must allow multiple voices to be heard. “But differences of opinion must be resolved through dialogue and consensus. Those who believe that their voice — and their voice alone — represents the will of 1.2 billion people should reflect deeply on that position. They must allow the elected representatives of the people in Parliament to do the job that they were elected for.”
Stating that he was performing the “painful duty” of reporting to Parliament on the events, the Prime Minister explained that Mr. Hazare and six of his associates were held because of the apprehension of breach of peace, although the government acknowledges the right of citizens to hold peaceful protests, permission for which could be given with “appropriate conditions.”
Dr. Singh insisted that the government did not seek any “confrontation” with any section. “But when some sections of society deliberately challenge the authority of the government and prerogative of Parliament, it is the bounden-duty of the government to maintain peace and tranquillity.”
He appealed to all parties to ensure that the government and Parliament and their processes worked smoothly and effectively.
A larger part of his statement was devoted to the sequence of events that led to Mr. Hazare's arrest and subsequent release.
Dr. Singh said it was the sole prerogative of Parliament to make laws, and the government had gone by well-settled principles. Everyone in Parliament agreed that the Lokpal Bill must be passed as early as possible. “The question is, who drafts the law and who makes the law. I submit that the time-honoured practice is that the Executive drafts a Bill and places it before Parliament and Parliament debates [on] and adopts the Bill with amendments, if necessary.”
“However, I am not aware of any constitutional philosophy or principle that allows any one to question the sole prerogative of Parliament to make a law,” he said. By making a law on the Lokpal, the government had “faithfully adhered to well-settled principles,” and Mr. Hazare “questions these principles and claims a right to impose his Jan Lokpal upon Parliament.”
Pointing to India's economic progress, he cautioned: “There are many forces that would not like to see India realise its true place in the comity of nations. We must not play into their hands. We must not create an environment in which our economic progress is hijacked by internal dissention.”
He appealed for smooth functioning of Parliament. “There is no substitute for that. If some people do not agree with our policy, there will be a time when they will have an opportunity to present their points of view to the people of India.”