Backing Anna Hazare’s crusade, the opposition on Wednesday declared that the people have the right to protest and their anger against corruption is “fierce and fair” because the government wanted a “Sarkari Lokpal”.
Initiating a short duration discussion on growing incidents of corruption in the country, Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley accused the United Progressive Alliance government of acting like a child in handling the agitation of civil society led by Mr. Hazare.
“Enormity of protests is proportionate to anger and the enormity of anger is proportionate to the corruption,” he said chiding the government for legislating in “haste and anger”.
Amidst disruptions by Congress members, Mr. Jaitley said the government had lost the moral battle since it wanted to control appointment of the Lokpal.
He said most of the proposals of the civil society like inclusion of the Prime Minister, judicial accountability and a public grievance redressal mechanism are reasonable.
If still there is no agreement, the “will of Parliament will prevail,” he said. However, most of the proposals of the civil society can be made “compatible with the Constitution”.
He asked the government to have a “serious relook” at its Lokpal Bill.
Finding faults with the handling of the civil society activists, Mr. Jaitley said, “You led them up to a garden path, then suddenly dumped them. Now they do not trust you anymore.”
The Prime Minister and the government are helpless in handling the situation, he said. “Can we blame the people?... at the end of the day, public opinion is fierce and fair.”
“They have a right to protest and crusade, we must not curtail their right nor should we say like a child we will not talk to you,” he remarked.
In cases like the 2G scam, Mr. Jaitley said the government “can put a lid on us, but not on public anger.”
Pointing out loopholes in the “Sarkari” Lokpal Bill, he asked as to how people can accept the bill that has provision for punishment of a corrupt official for a minimum six months while a complainant gets 2-5 years for a false complaint.
Just because the government had an issue with one particular NGO, it included all NGOs in the ambit of Lokpal, even if they are not funded from the state exchequer. This way, trusts running gurudwaras and temples would also be covered under Lokpal, he said.
On removal of Lokpal too, the senior BJP leader said it should be removed by “impeachment or by Supreme Court”, but the Bill says that only the government can initiate removal or suspension.
“The suggestion (on removal of Lokpal) of civil society is eminently workable,” he added.
On bringing the Prime Minister under Lokpal, Mr. Jaitley questioned what would happen if at any point of time the PM is prima facie corrupt. “Should he be brought under Lokpal after demitting office? Should the largest democracy suffer a corrupt Prime Minister. He must not be there even for a day,” he noted.
Replying to a snide remark by a Congress member about Gujarat on State Lokpal, Mr. Jaitley said, “If a Governor appoints Lokpal without consulting an elected government in a State, no State government will accept it.”
He also mentioned that public grievance mechanism, as is being sought in the Jan Lokpal Bill, is in place in Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh.
Referring to the judicial accountability in the Bill, Mr. Jaitley said, “What you are now willing to concede is what we have been stating for long.”