With Manmohan Singh personally favouring bringing the post of Prime Minister under the ambit of Lokpal, the Anna Hazare team today suggested he should show his commitment in this regard as he did on the issue of nuclear deal with the U.S.
“Well, the Prime Minister shall perhaps need to go by his personal call of conscience and take a stand like he did on nuclear power,” Kiran Bedi, activist and Hazare team member, told PTI.
Her comments came as Dr. Singh remarked to top editors during an interaction that he has no hesitation in bringing himself under the purview of Lokpal but many of his Cabinet colleagues feel that bringing the institution of Prime Minister under it will create instability.
On Dr. Singh’s remarks that government will reach out to civil society but no group can insist that their views are the last word, Ms. Bedi said they were for an open debate and had approached the government for it.
“Every view has to be a reasoned one. Which is why Team Anna was constantly asking for an open debate to be called by the government members or come and listen to people to narrow the disconnect. People’s perceptions are being widely published countrywide through reports, surveys and studies, which are speaking the widespread malaise of corruption. These too cannot be ignored,” she said.
Dr. Singh said he would like to be “guided” by political parties on this issue. Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalitha and her Punjab counterpart Prakash Singh Badal had both expressed their views that the PM office should be kept out of Lokpal’s purview.
On higher judiciary, the Prime Minister said “there are clear reservations” in bringing it under Lokpal. Judiciary must be encouraged to find its ways and means to regulate its own affairs consistent with the spirit of the Constitution, he said.
“How would the Supreme Court pronounce on complex issues if it is subject to the jurisdiction of the Lokpal,” Dr. Singh asked.
Acknowledging that corruption was a big issue which had caught the imagination of the people, he said the Lokpal was an essential and desirable legislation although it is not a panacea.
“We will honestly work to evolve a broad—based national consensus so that we have a statute which will give us a strong Lokpal,” Dr. Singh told the editors.
On the civil society members’ demand for creating a structure of Lokpal that would cover all the civil servants in both the Centre and states, he said “I have doubt whether our system will be able to stand that strain. Let us concentrate on corruption in high places which is most obnoxious.”
Stating that he had respect for members of the civil society, Dr. Singh said that was the reason why he had taken the trouble of interacting with them.
He had met Anna Hazare in March and assured him that the government was committed to bringing a Lokpal Bill in the monsoon session of Parliament which then had to decide whether to pass it or amend it.