ESHWAR ANAND IN THE TRIBUNE
Fali S. Nariman, eminent jurist, has called upon the Centre to end the “farce” on the Lokpal Bill “to an end as soon as possible”. He told this writer over the phone from New Delhi that the most important consideration at this moment is that the Lokpal Bill must be introduced without making a fuss about who should take part in its drafting.
“There is no loss of face on the part of the government to agree to half of an even number of members of the drafting committee chosen by Anna Hazare,” he said. He said whatever Bill that is drafted by the Committee of Ten when introduced, will have to pass muster in Parliament because that is a constitutional compulsion. And whatever Bill that is ultimately passed by Parliament becomes law. This is the only way to accommodate the upsurge against the canker of corruption, which has so excited the majority of people of India.
Nariman said “this is no time to stand on one’s dignity since the proposal of an even number of members of the drafting committee is not something which is unheard of, much less unconstitutional”. Soli J. Sorabjee, former Solicitor-General of India, says that Anna Hazare’s fast-unto-death has been a “clarion call” and has acted as a “salutary catalyst for urgent enactment of the Lokpal legislation”.
He said all ministers, high-level political functionaries of the state and state instrumentalities should be within the ambit of the Lokpal Bill except High Court or Supreme Court Judges because there is a specific constitutional provision (Article 124) for their removal on the ground of misconduct by the process of impeachment. He feels that the Lokpal and the Central Vigilance Commissioner should be kept separate and he is not in favour of a merger of the CBI’s corruption branch with the Lokpal Bill.
Sorabjee says that as the Lokpal legislation has to be enacted by Parliament, its provision requires careful consideration. The most important thing is the composition of the Lokpal. It should consist of three members each one of whom has an unquestionable reputation for integrity and independence. The findings of the Lokpal one way or the other on a charge of corruption will have great moral force and binding effect in view of its composition.
Dr Subhash C. Kashyap, constitutional expert and a former Secretary-General of Lok Sabha, is not in favour of legislation on matters of state policy being decided by hunger strikes. “We have to decide whether we believe in representative democracy or not and if so, it is the people’s representatives who have to decide on matters of legislation and state policy”.
Dr Kashyap says that the present Lokpal Bill is most unsatisfactory and should be revised fundamentally. Some good points in the Jan Lokpal Bill can be incorporated into the Bill. However, it has some objectionable points which strike at the root of the Constitution and democracy. For example, giving the Lokpal executive and judicial powers even over the Supreme Court will violate the constitutional scheme.
Justice Rajindar Sachar, former Chief Justice of the Delhi High Court, says that the government should realise that the Lokpal Bill cannot be an all-encompassing one. It is basically meant for ministers, legislators and bureaucrats. The idea of including judges in the Bill is preposterous. There should be a separate institutional mechanism like the Judicial Standards and Accountability Act to deal with judges under a cloud.
Justice A.R. Lakshmanan, former Supreme Court Judge and Chairman, Law Commission of India, says that a comprehensive and effective Lokpal is “absolutely necessary” to check corruption in the country. However, the draft Bill, in its present form, requires many changes to make it more effective. He says it is wrong to say that the Centre is not doing anything to root out corruption. The PM is “very serious” about the introduction of the Lokpal Bill in the monsoon session of Parliament, he says.
Karnataka Lokayukta Santosh Hegde, who along with the Gandhian activist Anna Hazare has drafted the Jan Lokpal Bill, today said personally he was least bothered about who would head the joint committee to give finishing touches to the proposed legislation. “What is important is that they (the committee members) should come to an agreement on various clauses of the proposed Bill,” Hegde said while talking to The Tribune here today.Hegde said the committee that drafted the Jan Lokpal Bill consisted of a number of members, including Hazare and advocate Prashant Bhushan.
“There were divergent opinions. I also did not agree with all the provisions incorporated in the proposed Bill. But I accepted the draft because in such an exercise one must respect the opinion of others too”, he said. Acknowledging that the Bill would undergo further modifications if the proposed joint drafting committee for giving final touches to the Bill came into being, Hegde said he had no objections to further changes provided the basic spirit of the Bill is retained.