Social activist Anna Hazare on Wednesday asked the Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice to summarily reject the “structurally weak” Lokpal Bill and recommend to the government to come up with a revised legislation.
After a nearly two-hour-long meeting with the members of the committee, Mr. Hazare told journalists that he saw a “ray of hope” in the panel seeking from him a copy of the draft Jan Lokpal Bill formulated by the civil society group.
“They will look at both the Bills and find a solution. In this, I see a tiny ray of hope,” he said.
To go ahead with fast
Mr. Hazare however, is determined to go ahead with his indefinite fast from August 16 here to press his demand for a revised Bill that does justice to “aam aadmi,” who is grappling with day-to-day corruption. “We are not against Parliament but the government that went back on its assurances to us. It has brought a weak Bill that cannot tackle the widespread corruption.”
Mr. Hazare and his team, comprising activist Arvind Kejriwal, lawyers Shanti Bhushan and Prashant Bhushan, and former IPS officer Kiran Bedi, made a presentation to the panel chaired by Abhishek Singhvi. Majority of the panel members asked questions and sought clarifications.
“It is a Bill that promotes corruption rather than curbs it. It only talks about setting up Lokpal but not about Lokayuktas in States. It does not deal with public grievances on corruption and covering lower bureaucrats. The kind of amendments that would be required to completely overhaul the Bill is outside the scope of the standing committee,” said Mr. Kejriwal.
Describing the Bill as “exceedingly weak and confusing,” Mr. Prashant Bhushan told the panel that it was designed to deter complaints and harass non-governmental organisations and complainants, who raised their voice against corruption.
“Since the Standing Committee represents members from all parties, we urged them to rise above party politics and come with voices representing the people of their constituencies,'' said Ms. Bedi.
Separately, Mr. Hazare's associate Swami Agnivesh said in a television interview on Wednesday that they were “flexible” about discussing issues such as inclusion of Prime Minister or higher judiciary under the ambit of the Bill.
Explaining the remarks, Mr. Prashant Bhushan told The Hindu that they had not given up these demands, but they could be discussed and talked about in the committee.
Speaking to the media, Mr. Singhvi said the deliberations of the committee were “confidential, and so they will remain.” He, however, said the discussions with Team Anna were “intense, productive and concrete.”
The panel invited Mr. Hazare and his team for a hearing barely within two days of the Bill being referred to it. This is seen by many as an attempt by the government to show that it was still engaging with the civil society group whereas, after days of dithering, the Delhi Police on Wednesday offered them a park near the Feroz Shah Kotla Grounds for the agitation “subject to permission from land-owing agency.”
Indeed, RJD leader Lalu Prasad, a member of the panel, said it was “magnanimous” of the committee to invite Mr. Hazare and his team for discussions. “Others, including Baba Ramdev will also be invited.”