With the anti-corruption movement spearheaded by Anna Hazare winning the first round hands down and the United Progressive Alliance government capitulating to its demand that the Gandhian must be allowed to lead an indefinite fast without any restrictions worth speaking about, the focus shifts to what the agitation can expect to achieve in terms of an effective Lokpal Bill. The conditions seem propitious considering that the unintended consequence of a scam-tainted government's initial reaction — which bore the stamp of Pavlovian conditioning — has been the strengthening of the anti-corruption mood in the country. What the agitation symbolised by Mr. Hazare has succeeded in doing is to totally discredit the content of, and the motivation behind, the Lokpal Bill the UPA government has introduced in Parliament — which Prashant Bhushan, a key member of Team Anna, has taken to calling the ‘Promotion of Corruption Bill.' The wise course for the government is to withdraw the Bill immediately, without standing on false prestige. Not to do so would only strengthen the popular perception, reflected in a number of public opinion surveys, that it is bent on perpetuating and covering up corruption.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's exposition of a “constitutional philosophy” in his August 17 statement in the Lok Sabha misses the mark by a mile. Even a cursory look at the history and sociology of how major laws are shaped in India and other parliamentary democracies shows that quite often they are the end product of movements and struggles of various kinds and that the proposition that it is “the sole prerogative of Parliament to make a law” is true only in the most literal, superficial, banal sense. Moreover, in the Indian constitutional scheme (in contrast to the British), Parliament is not supreme; it is the Constitution that is supreme. That said, it does not in the least follow that settling the terms of the anti-corruption institutional mechanism can be left solely to Team Anna or that its Jan Lokpal Bill, which has some impractical and unsound provisions, must be accepted in toto. In quite un-Gandhian fashion, a mood of triumphalism has taken over the current occupants of Ramlila Maidan. Mr. Hazare has stated that he would not budge from the venue until the Jan Lokpal Bill was introduced in Parliament; and Kiran Bedi, a widely admired member of Team Anna, was so carried away by the mood that she proclaimed, perhaps momentarily forgetting the slogan's authoritarian era associations, that “Anna is India and India is Anna.” Democratic, progressive, political India needs to find its own way. It must use this favourable moment to push forward and shape a law that centre-stages the principle of independent, effective, and quick-acting investigation and prosecution of corruption, especially in high places.