‘Government has not conceded anything’
CONSITUTIONAL expert and former Lok Sabha Secretary-General Subhash Kashyap says that the government has not conceded much, that it has not committed itself to anything, and that Team Anna has not gained much on its demand for the acceptance of a Jan Lokpal Bill. The only achievements of the fortnight-long agitation are public awakening and the fact that the issue of corruption has been placed centre stage. “It is still a long road ahead,” he said in an interview to Frontline. Excerpts:
The upsurge of support for Anna Hazare and the fact that Parliament held a sitting on a holiday to discuss the issues raised by him do herald the beginning of something big. What exactly has been the net outcome of the unprecedented anti-corruption movement?
Unprecedented no doubt it was because never before has Parliament held a sitting on a holiday to discuss an issue raised by a non-political entity. The issue had gripped the nation’s imagination for over 12 days. It was also unprecedented in the sense that never before has public support for any cause been so humongous. The government initially appeared in no mood to give in to Anna Hazare’s demands. But let us not get carried away by all this because the net outcome is tenuous in nature, to say the least. No substantive achievement has been made as far as acceptance of the demand for a Jan Lokpal Bill is concerned.
Why do you say this when Parliament has committed itself to accepting the three demands put forth by Hazare?
If you look at the ‘sense-of-the-House‘ resolution closely, you will notice that it was no resolution as such; so the House as such has not resolved anything. At best, it was only an ‘in principle’ agreement with the three demands, which have merely been ‘forwarded’ to the Standing Committee for its ‘perusal’. Hence, the government has not committed itself to anything, Parliament has not committed itself to anything, and the sense-of-the-House resolution forwarded to the Standing Committee is not binding on it. So, in strict legal or constitutional terms, the sense of the House has no meaning whatsoever, except a moralistic one. The committee may or may not honour it. So, in effect, the government has not conceded anything to Team Anna. It has stuck to its position that whatever it had to say would be put forth to the Standing Committee, which will take cognisance at the time of studying the Lokpal Bill.
Then why is the entire exercise being dubbed as a “victory of democracy”, as if this was history in the making?
It was history in the making in a different sense. It was for the first time since Independence that the government, and Parliament, was seen to be succumbing to public pressure, that it actually conceded that people too should be taken into account while drafting legislation. For the first time, people were seen to be taken seriously by the political class. Also, the fact that the entire exercise brought the issue of corruption to the fore makes it significant. But let us not lull ourselves into believing that this is a big victory against corruption. It is just the beginning. The proposed law will only be a curative solution, it will not attack the causes for corruption, nor will it prevent corruption. For that we need wide-ranging systemic reforms in all sectors.
If this is the case, what explains the massive support for the cause?
Dissatisfaction with the government, which has never been so pronounced, except during the Emergency in its second year. The situation today is akin to what Marx says, ‘the state has withered away’. There is total chaos, people are fed up with high prices, there is corruption at every level, there is massive governance deficit, the government has failed the people at all levels. It was a tailor-made situation for such an outpouring. People genuinely believed that they were participating in the second freedom struggle, to rid the country of corruption. But let me warn you, one such Bill cannot be the panacea for all that is wrong with the system. And let me also warn you that one should not be overambitious in expecting the re-drafted Lokpal Bill to include all these suggestions. It may or may not happen.
So what have we achieved, finally?
Anna Hazare has broken his fast! I am sure we will need him for many more such mobilisations in this fight against corruption.
- ‘Do not insist on forcing us to do something that goes against the oath of our office’ (indialawyers.wordpress.com)
- The Lokpal and the CBI (indialawyers.wordpress.com)
- ‘Many advantages in Lokpal as a constitutional body’ (indialawyers.wordpress.com)