JUSTICE KATJU – MEDIA DEBATE : Bring electronic media under Press Council

PUBLISHED IN THE HINDU

Writes to Manmohan Singh seeking more teeth to council

Press Council Chairman Markandey Katju has written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh suggesting that the electronic media should be brought under its purview and should be given “more teeth.”

“I have written to the PM that the electronic media should be brought under Press Council and it should be called Media Council and we should be given more teeth. Those teeth would be used in extreme situations,” Justice Katju told Karan Thapar on CNN-IBN’s Devil’s Advocate programme. Mr. Katju said that he had received a letter from the Prime Minister that his letter had been received and “they are considering it.” The former Supreme Court judge said he had also met Leader of Opposition Sushma Swaraj and that she had told him probably there will be a “consensus.”  Mr. Thapar had asked Mr. Katju whether he was seeking more teeth for Press council.

More powers to PCI

“I want powers to stop government advertisement, I want to suspend license of that media for a certain period if it behaves in a very obnoxious manner, impose fines,” Mr. Katju said while maintaining that all these measures would be used only in extreme situations.

On if these measures would not threaten the freedom of the media, he said, “Everybody is accountable in a democracy. No freedom is absolute. Every freedom is subject to reasonable restrictions. I am accountable, you are accountable, we are accountable to the people.”

Media regulation

Mr. Katju said that he thought TV debates were “frivolous”, and there is no discipline among panelists. “It is not a shouting contest,” he opined.  He also spoke about how he thought things could be changed. “There must be some fear in the media,” he said, quoting Tulsidas’ Ramcharitmanas that ‘bin bhay hot na preet’ Mr. Katju said, “I have a poor opinion of the media” and added that “they should be working for the interest of the people. They are not working for the interest of the people and sometime they are positively working in an anti-people manner.”

He said, “Indian media is very often playing an anti-people role. It often diverts the attention of the people from the real problems which are basically economic. “80 per cent people are living in horrible poverty, unemployment, facing price rise, health care (problems)”. “You (media) divert the attention from those problems and instead you project film stars and fashion parades as if they are the problems of the people,” he said. “Cricket is an opium of the masses. Roman emperors used to say if you cannot give the people bread give them circuses. In India send them to cricket if you cannot give the people bread,” Mr. Katju told Mr. Thapar.

The Council Chairman said, “Whenever bomb blasts take place, in Bombay, Delhi, Bangalore, within a few hours almost every channel starts showing an e-mail has come or an sms has come that Indian Mujahideen has claimed responsibility or Jaish-e Mohammed or Harkat-ul-Ansar or some Muslim name.”

“You see e-mail or sms…any mischievous person can send but by showing it on TV channels you are in a subtle way conveying the message that all Muslims are terrorists and bomb throwers and you are demonising the Muslims…99 per cent of people of all communities are good people,” Mr. Katju said. “I think it is a deliberate action of the media to divide the people on religious lines and that is totally against the national interest,” he said. Mr. Katju said that India was in a transitional period moving “from feudal agricultural society to a modern industrial society. This is a very painful and agonising period in history. When Europe was going through this period, media played a great role.

“In Europe, great writers like Rousseau, Voltaire, Thomas Paine, Junius, Diderot helped. Diderot said that man would be free when the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest,” he said. During the interview, Mr. Katju said, “Here the media promotes superstition, astrology. 90 per cent people in the country are mentally very backward, steeped in casteism, communalism, and superstition and so on.” He said, “Should the media uplift them to a higher level and make them a part of an enlightened India or should the media go down to their level and perpetuate their backwardness?”

The former Supreme Court judge said, “Many TV channels show astrology which is purely humbug.” In response to another query, he said that though he respected certain individuals in the media, in “general the rut is very low, I have a poor opinion of media people. I don’t think they have knowledge of economic theory, political science or literature or philosophy.” He said, “People need modern scientific ideas but the reverse is happening.”Citing an instance, Mr. Katju said that “the photograph of a high court judge was shown next to the photograph of a notorious criminal for two consecutive days” on a TV channel. Mr. Katju, who had been a high court judge, said the channel had done a story on baseless allegations against an upright judge. “You condemn a corrupt person I am with you but why should you condemn an honest person.”

Mr. Katju said, “I have a poor opinion of the media” and added that “they should be working for the interest of the people. They are not working for the interest of the people and sometime they are positively working in an anti—people manner.”

He said, “Indian media is very often playing an anti— people role. It often diverts the attention of the people from the real problems which are basically economic. “80 per cent people are living in horrible poverty, unemployment, facing price rise, health care (problems).”

“You (media) divert the attention from those problems and instead you project film stars and fashion parades as if they are the problems of the people,” he said.

“Cricket is an opium of the masses. Roman emperors used to say if you cannot give the people bread give them circuses. In India send them to cricket if you cannot give the people bread,” Katju told Thapar.

The Council Chairman said, “Whenever bomb blasts take place, in Bombay, Delhi, Bangalore, within a few hours almost every channel starts showing an e—mail has come or an sms has come that Indian Mujahideen has claimed responsibility or Jaish—e Mohammed or Harkat—ul—Ansar or some Muslim name,” he said.

“You see e—mail or sms…any mischievous person can send but by showing it on TV channels you are in a subtle way conveying the message that all Muslims are terrorists and bomb throwers and you are demonising the Muslims…99 per cent of people of all communities are good people,” Katju said.

“I think it is a deliberate action of the media to divide the people on religious lines and that is totally against the national interest,” he said.

Media for development

Mr. Katju said that India was in a transitional period moving “from feudal agricultural society to a modern industrial society. This is a very painful and agonising period in history. When Europe was going through this period, media played a great role.

“In Europe, great writers like Rousseau, Voltaire, Thomas Paine, Junius, Diderot helped. Diderot said that man would be free when the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest,” he said.

During the interview, Mr. Katju said, “Here the media promotes superstition, astrology. 90 per cent people in the country are mentally very backward, steeped in casteism, communalism, superstition and so on.” He said, “Should the media uplift them to a higher level and make them a part of an enlightened India or should the media go down to their level and perpetuate their backwardness?” The former Supreme Court judge said, “Many TV channels show astrology which is purely humbug.” In response to another query, he said that though he respected certain individuals in the media, in “general the rut is very low, I have a poor opinion of media people. I don’t think they have knowledge of economic theory, political science or literature or philosophy.”

He said, “People need modern scientific ideas but the reverse is happening.” Citing an instance, Mr. Katju said that “the photograph of a high court judge was shown next to the photograph of a notorious criminal for two consecutive days” on a TV channel.

Mr. Katju, who had been a high court judge, said the channel had done a story on baseless allegations against an upright judge. “You condemn a corrupt person I am with you but why should you condemn an honest person.”

http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/article2582746.ece

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‘Many advantages in Lokpal as a constitutional body’

JAN LOKPAL CAMPAIGN

JAN LOKPAL CAMPAIGN

JUSTICE J S VERMA IN THE INDIAN EXPRESS

After the appeal by all political parties to Anna Hazare to end his fast cutting across party lines in the resolution adopted unanimously in the Lok Sabha on August 25, it was reasonable to expect that his core group of advisors would ensure that the impending danger to his health and life would be averted. Justice Santosh Hegde, a member of Anna Hazare’s team, and his many other followers also made such an appeal. A meaningful constructive debate on the status, nature and jurisdiction of the proposed Lokpal requires a conducive atmosphere. Fortunately, Anna Hazare having decided to end his fast, the debate on the contentious issues can now proceed coolly.

One such issue has emerged from Rahul Gandhi’s suggestion in the Lok Sabha that the proposed Lokpal be a constitutional body like the Election Commission or the Comptroller & Auditor General, which has the status of a Judge of Supreme Court. As it is, the contemplated draft Lokpal Bills also envisage the same status for the Lokpal, though in an ordinary legislation. Many persons have sought my view on this issue. Therefore, I consider it worthwhile to put it in public domain for consideration, as part of the democratic process.

What, if any, could be the advantages of the proposed Lokpal being a constitutional body, instead of a mere statutory authority? I would think there are many.

One obvious difference is that any change in the structure or status of a mere statutory authority can be made by a simple majority in the legislature enacting an ordinary legislation, whereas such a change in a constitutional body would require the more onerous route of a constitutional amendment adhering to the principle of federalism. No doubt, the initial creation of the Lokpal as a constitutional body would itself require a constitutional amendment, but in the current mood of the entire nation supporting the crusade against corruption demanding a ‘strong Lokpal’, the environment is conducive for this progressive step. An immediate impact of such a move will be also to satisfy the core demand of Anna Hazare and his team voiced by the entire nation of a ‘strong Lokpal’.

One of the contentious issues relates to the provision for effective Lok Ayuktas in the states. Article 253 of the Constitution does empower Parliament to enact a law for the whole or any part of the territory of India to implement an international treaty or convention: UN Convention against Corruption in this case. This provision overrides the Lists in the Seventh Schedule. A constitutional amendment to create the institution of the Lokpal akin to that of the Election Commission or the CAG will overcome that difficulty by making uniform provision for equally effective Lok Ayukta in the states.

Another relevant factor is that corruption-free governance is a basic human right, more so in a developing country. In India it is a judicially recognised enforceable right derived from guaranteed fundamental rights. The Human Development Report, 1999 on the theme of ‘Crisis of Governance in South Asia’, identified corruption as a major cause for that crisis. A ‘strong Lokpal’ to combat the malaise of corruption is a clarion call of the nation; and it is also a means to address the constitutional promise made in the directive principles of State policy as well as for eradication of poverty-the foremost Millennium Development Goal. The Durban Commitment to Effective Action against Corruption (1999) resolved: “[Corruption] deepens poverty; it debases human rights, it degrades the environment; it derails development and it destroys confidence in democracy and the legitimacy of governments. It debases human dignity.” A constitutional Lokpal, instead of a statutory Lokpal, will be more effective to achieve this objective.

Another incident of a constitutional Lokpal to combat corruption would be to make its function a basic feature of the Constitution, and, therefore, a part of its indestructible basic structure that would be beyond even the amending power under Article 368: Keshavananda Bharti, AIR 1973 SC 1461. Immunity from vagaries of changing political equations in the era of coalitions is another benefit.

Experience has shown that the constitutional bodies are comparatively more effective and immune from political and other extraneous influences than statutory bodies. The need for creation of a ‘strong Lokpal’ providing greater public confidence in its credibility is sufficient reason to prefer its constitutional status.

I may reiterate another aspect which I have been emphasizing for long. The Lokpal, in whatever form, is not a panacea for controlling corruption from all sources. A holistic view is necessary to take measures to cure as well as to prevent this evil in all its aspects. More than one measure is needed to provide complete remedy. A few illustrations would suffice.

Judicial accountability as a facet of judicial independence cannot be achieved without the effective accountability also of the lawyers, which is inadequate under the Advocates Act, 1961 giving the entire control over the conduct of lawyers only to a body of lawyers. Linkage between misconduct of some lawyer and that of the errant judge is common knowledge. Similarly, corruption of other professionals, corporates, media etc. has also to be addressed. Even the field of education is no longer sacrosanct. In short, the long term target of restoration of values as the strongest preventive measure must also be a part of the action plan.

Electoral reforms are necessary to curb the ill-effect of money and muscle power that breed corruption and criminalise politics; and reforms to prevent tax evasion contributing to increase of black money. Constitution Amendment Bill could also simultaneously introduce concurrent constitutional changes essential for a strong anti-corruption regime such as to Articles 105, 194 and 235. The impact of the JMM bribery case needs to be overcome by amending Articles 105 and 194 and codifying the privileges of the members.

Such a comprehensive programme alone can prevent as well as cure the malady; otherwise adding to the existing plethora of legislation on the subject would only be a symptomatic treatment instead of a permanent cure. There is no instant cure for a chronic disease. It requires a sober debate along the correct route.

Enlargement of the debate on the challenge at this juncture also provides the opportunity which must not be lost. Anna Hazare has provided this opportunity for an intensive search for the best method to combat rampant corruption. The churning process to find the best solution has begun. It is time for Hazare to derive satisfaction that his prime purpose is served. He should now leave it to those who are constitutionally entrusted with completing the task with the aid of all of the civil society in our inclusive democracy. I sincerely urge movement in this direction within the constitutional scheme.

The writer is a former Chief Justice of India

http://www.indianexpress.com/news/many-advantages-in-lokpal-as-a-constitutional-body/838149/0

LOK PAL BILL CAMPAIGN : Prime Minister speech in the Lok Sabha debate on Corruption

Manmohan Singh, current prime minister of India.

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Following is the text of Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh’s uncorrected speech in the Lok Sabha on corruption:

PRIME MINISTER : Hon. Speaker Madam, I am very happy that at long last, the House had a debate on the issue of corruption. I thank all the Members who participated in this debate.

Madam, that corruption is a major national issue is something a matter about which there is unanimity in the country. That we should collectively work to find credible approaches, credible solutions to deal with this scourge is also a matter, which unites all sections of thinking public opinion in our country.

Madam, I share that perception; and on behalf of our Government, I would like to assure this august House that in the two and A half years of period that is left to us, we will do everything in our power to clean the system of this country.

Madam, Dr. Murli Manohar Joshi is not here. Yesterday, he made a powerful speech and he turned into a personal attack on me as if I am the fountain head of corruption and that I have knowingly connived at corruptions of some of my colleagues.… (Interruptions)

MADAM SPEAKER: Nothing else will go on record.

PRIME MINISTER : Madam, I consider it beneath my dignity to enter into an argument on issues which are before the PAC, issues which are in our courts. In my seven years as Prime Minister even when the Opposition Members have accused me of many crimes, I have never used harsh language in describing the conduct of any Member of this House.

Madam, I would like to assert before this House that I have a public life in the service of this country for nearly 41 years. In these 41 years of my public life, 20 years in Parliament I have tried to serve this country to the best of my ability.

I, as Finance Minister, inherited an economy with bankrupt treasury, with foreign exchange reserves totally exhausted, with credit worthiness of our country seriously in doubt. We turned around that economy. We have ensured that this economy, the bankrupt economy that we inherited, has become one of the fastest growing economies of the world.

Madam, whatever the Members of the Opposition may say, the fact is that India is respected all over the world. I think that is because of the inherent strength of our economy, of our polity, of our democratic system but at the margin, in these seven years or as earlier as Finance Minister, I did make a small contribution in my own way to enhance the prestige of this country, and therefore, while charges are leveled against me, it hurts but I am not going to convert this forum into a forum for accusation one way or the other. All I can say is that if any wrongdoing has been done by me, I invite the Leader of the Opposition to look at my property which I may have accumulated in the last 41 years, my members of my family … (Interruptions)

I would accept the verdict of the Leader of the Opposition if they find that I have used public office to amass wealth for myself or for any member of my family.

Madam, in the course of seven years as Prime Minister, I may have made mistakes. Who is above making mistakes? To err is human but to accuse me of evil intentions, of conniving at corruption is a charge I firmly repudiate.

Madam, this is not an occasion to trade allegations to and fro and I am not going to deal with this matter as the matter is before the court or before the various Committees of Parliament and they will come with their own conclusions. I would, however, like to say that corruption is a multifaceted problem. Therefore, we, as a nation, have to find practical, pragmatic means but effective means to tackle it, and this is not merely the responsibility of the Central Government. The State Governments are responsible for over 50 per cent of the total national spending and the conduct of the State Governments, which is the one way people come in contact with Government, is essentially the responsibility of the States. There is anger in the country. There is anger about the misuse of public offices.

Therefore, both at the Centre and the States, it is our obligation to clean up the system of governance to reforming and to ensure that we leave behind for our children and grand children a system of public administration which is capable of meeting the challenge of the 21st Century. I commit our Government to doing precisely that. In my address to the nation from the ramparts of the Red Fort, I listed a number of areas where in the next couple of months I would like our Government to take initiative and I stand committed to whatever I promised from the ramparts of the Red fort.

Madam, corruption sources are numerous. Until the early 90s, the biggest single source of corruption was the licensing system, the industrial licensing system, the import controls and the foreign exchange controls. The liberalisation that we brought about has ended that part of this corruption story.

Another major part of corruption was the rates of taxation which were so exorbitant that people were tempted to enter into corrupt practices to reduce their tax liabilities. We have, I venture to suggest, ourselves and the successor Governments worked hard to simplify to streamline the taxation system and on balance there is less scope for corruption as far as taxation matters are concerned. Even though I recognise that a residual element is still there and we have to work together through various mechanisms, including goods and services tax which is now in public domain and, which is, I believe, an obligation which our country must fulfil if it wants to move forward. But, there are many other areas where corruption still persists. We have to tackle this problem from various angles.

There are Central Government programmes administered by the State Governments but there are leakages. Therefore, we must find ways and means of reforming the system of public administration so that these leakages can be plucked. Malfunctioning of public distribution has been widely commented upon. We must, therefore, devise new methodologies to ensure that Public Distribution System will be free of malpractices. This is an obligation which we can discharge only with full collaboration with the State Governments and discharge we must. But I would like this House to endorse the reform of the Public Distribution System, where the ordinary people come in contact with Government machinery or meeting the basic needs of existence of livelihood, is cleaned up.

Madam, yet another source is, where Government contracts are given in a manner which creates suspicion that something is going wrong. Therefore, we need a Public Procurement Act, as some other countries have, to streamline our contracting mechanisms in a manner in which there will be less scope for corruption in future.

Madam, in certain areas, greater competition itself will reduce the scope for corruption. But, we still know that there are areas of infrastructure where competition can at best be only limited. There is scope for regulation. We have, in the last couple of years, put in place regulatory mechanisms, but the functioning of these regulatory mechanisms, especially with regard to the management of the infrastructure, is something which requires attention. That is yet another area where we must find ways and means to streamline the regulatory system, so that there is less scope for corruption.

I could go on. But I do not want to repeat what I said from the ramparts of the Red Fort. The House has my assurance that we will work in full public glare to fulfil what we have promised. I have set up a group under Shri Pranab Mukherjee to look at the scope for reducing the amount of discretion that ministers have at the Centre. This group has made some important suggestions. They will be considered by the Cabinet and we will put in place a mechanism to reduce the scope for misuse of discretionary power or to eliminate discretionary power wherever it can be done without detriment to public interest or achievement of public good.

Madam, it is in the context of corruption that the last few weeks have seen momentous developments. Shri Anna Hazare has gone on fast. His plea is that we should adopt the Jan Lokpal Bill that has been drafted by them. The background of this whole exercise is well known to this august House. We have sittings together with the five representatives of Shri Anna Hazare, including himself, who met with our five representatives and a large measure of agreement was reached with regard to the shape of the Lokpal Bill that we should have. On certain matters there was disagreement and that disagreement could not be resolved and therefore we have referred that matter for consideration of the All Parties Committee and the said consensus was that the Government should come with its own version of the Bill and various Parties would then reflect on what to do with that Bill. We discharged that obligation. We submitted that Bill to Parliament. It has now been referred to the Standing Committee.

This Standing Committee can consider all options and we can find ways and means of ensuring that the Bill that has been prepared by Shri Anna Hazare is given due consideration by this Committee. Also, along with this, there are other ideas. There is Dr. Jayaprakash Narayan’s group which produced a Bill; there are ideas which have been mentioned in a paper by Shrimati Aruna Roy. All these matters can be discussed, debated and a consensus can be built up in the Standing Committee. We are open to all suggestions. We will work with all sections of this House to have a Lokpal, who is strong, who is effective and about which there is a national consensus.

We have produced a Bill which reflects the thinking of our Government. But we are open to persuasion and we have an open mind and when we discuss this Bill, whether in Parliament or in the Standing Committee, we will work with a single minded devotion to ensure that we leave behind for posterity a Lokpal Bill which does credit to our concerns for meeting the challenge of corruption. Madam, yesterday there was a very good meeting of all political parties. All political parties agreed that we should request Shri Anna Hazare to give up his fast and that we should find ways and means to ensure that ideas reflected in the Jan Lokpal Bill are given adequate consideration in parliamentary processes and that we should come forward with a strong, effective Bill which has the broad support of the country as a whole. I commit our Government to working with all sections of the House to realise this dream. Therefore, I urge all Members of the House to join me in making an appeal to Shri Anna Hazare that he has made his point. It has been registered with us. I respect his idealism. I respect him as an individual. He has become the embodiment of our people’s disgust and concern about tackling corruption. I applaud him, I salute him. His life is much too precious and therefore, I would urge Shri Anna Hazare to end his fast.

We will find effective ways and means of discussing the Jan Lokpal Bill along with the Government version of the Bill along with Shrimati Aruna Roy’s Bill, along with the ideas in the paper that Dr. Jayaprakash Narayan has submitted. All ideas should be discussed, debated so that we have a Bill which is the best possible Bill, which will help us to deal with the problem of corruption.

Madam, it has been mentioned to me that Shri Anna Hazare and his colleagues are very keen that their Bill should be discussed in the Parliament. I have not thought over this matter in great depth, but a thought comes to me that perhaps we could have a debate in this House on all the Bills that are in the public domain and have a discussion what are the weak points of various Bills and what are the strong points of various Bills and at the end of that debate, send the whole record for consideration of the Standing Committee of the Parliament. I have a feeling that this will meet the point that Shri Anna Hazare and his colleagues have been making that Parliament must have a chance to give its views on their Bill before sending it to the Standing Committee and therefore, I submit to this august House that this is one via media which will respect the parliamentary supremacy and, at the same time, enable Parliament to take on board ideas contained in the Lokpal Bill drafted by Shri Anna Hazare and his colleagues. Madam, I conclude by appealing to all sections of the House to join in appeal that I have made to Shri Anna Hazare that his life is much too precious. We would like him to live a long life and a happy life in the service of our people. He has registered his point. Therefore, we respectfully request him to end his fast. I think that if we do it, then this would be a befitting finale to this very constructive debate on corruption and in tackling it that has taken place in this House since yesterday.”

JAN LOKPAL BILL- ALL PARTY MEETING APPEAL TO SHRI ANNA HAZARE TO END FAST

Anna Hazare - Delhi

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This meeting of all parties in Parliament requests Shri Anna Hazare to end his fast. The meeting was also of the view that due consideration should be given to the Jan Lokpal Bill so that the Final Draft of the Lokpal Bill provides for a strong and effective Lokpal which is supported by a broad national consensus.

JAN LOKPAL BILL- Prime Ministers opening remarks at the All Party Meeting

Manmohan Singh, current prime minister of India.

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Following is the text of the Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh`s opening remarks at the All Party Meeting on Lokpal Bill:

I welcome you all to this All Party Meeting on the Lokpal Bill, which is before the Standing Committee.  In our last meeting on July 3, we all had agreed that we must enact a strong Lokpal Bill which can deal with the menace of corruption.  During the meeting, two Lokpal Bills, one prepared by the official members of the Joint Drafting Committee, and the other, the Jan Lokpal Bill, were presented before you.  The consensus that emerged was that the Government should bring a strong and effective Lokpal Bill in the coming Session of the Parliament for enactment by following the established legislative procedure.

 The Government had accordingly prepared a Bill and introduced it in the Lok Sabha on 4 August, 2011.  The Bill was referred to the Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice and it is being discussed in that Committee. Meanwhile, Shri Anna Hazareji and his colleagues have continued to maintain their stand in support of the Jan Lokpal Bill.  Shri Anna Hazareji went on fast at the Ramlila Maidan from 16 August to press for their demands.

I have personally stated the Government’s position in public on more than one occasion.  We want a strong and effective Lokpal Bill.  Accordingly, we would like the Standing Committee to consider all points of view to evolve a broad based national consensus to create a strong institution of the Lokpal.The fast of Shri Anna Hazareji and his failing health are a matter of concern to all of us.  Yesterday, I felt that I should take a personal initiative to appeal to Shri Anna Hazareji to end his fast so that we may work together in a spirit of cooperative engagement to bring into existence a strong Lokpal.

Accordingly, I wrote to him requesting him to end his fast and reiterated Government’s intention to pass the best possible Lokpal legislation with inputs from civil society and on the basis of the broadest possible consensus.  I said that the  matter was with the Standing Committee and the Committee was entitled to consider not only the Bill introduced by the Government but the Jan Lokpal Bill and other versions like those prepared by Shrimati Aruna Roy as well. I said that our Government was prepared to request the Speaker of the Lok Sabha to formally refer the Jan Lokpal Bill also to the Standing Committee for their holistic consideration along with everything else.  I also said that the Government can formally request the Standing Committee to fast-track their deliberations to the extent reasonably feasible, subject to its discretion and the necessity to reflect deeply and spend adequate time on such an important Bill.

 Following this, Shri Anna Hazare agreed to hold discussions with the Government.  Accordingly, Shri Pranab Mukherjee and Shri Salman Khurshid met with three of his representatives to find a way out of the present impasse.  Broadly their position is that (a) the Government should withdraw the Bill introduced in Parliament (b) the Jan Lokpal Bill should be introduced with some changes in Parliament within four days and (c) this Bill should be discussed and passed during this session of Parliament by extending it if necessary, with minor amendments adopted by Parliament, and without referring the Bill to the Standing Committee.  If a written commitment can be given with timelines, then the representatives said they can hopefully persuade Annaji to stop his fast. I will ask Pranabji to brief us later in more detail on what transpired in the meeting.

 Our common objective is to build a strong and independent institution that will deal effectively with corruption, which is a major challenge that confronts our democracy and our nation. Recent developments have raised issues, related to the functioning of our Parliamentary democracy, that concern all of us.  I, therefore, thought it appropriate to convene this meeting to brief you on these developments and seek your guidance on the way forward.”

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JAN LOKPAL BILL : Prime Minister writes to Shri Anna Hazare

Manmohan Singh, current prime minister of India.

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The Prime Minister has written to Shri Anna Hazare on the Lokpal issue. The text of the letter is as follows:

Over the last few days, I have watched with increasing concern the state of your health. Despite the differences between the Government and your team, I do not think that anybody is or should be in any doubt about the deep and abiding concern which I and our Government share about your health, arising from your continuing fast. I have no hesitation in saying that we need your views and actions in the service of the nation, from a robust physical condition and not in the context of frail or failing health.

I have maintained that your and our object is identical viz. to reduce significantly, if not eliminate, the scourge of corruption from this country. At worst, our paths and methodologies may differ, though I do believe that even those differences have been exaggerated. The Government is committed to passing a constitutionally valid and the best possible Lok Pal legislation with inputs from Civil Society with the broadest possible consensus. We are ready to talk to anybody. However, we will have to keep in mind Parliamentary supremacy and constitutional obligations in matters of legislation. As a Government we respect and are responsible to the Will of the Indian People as represented by Parliament.

As you are aware, the Lok Pal bill is now before a Standing Committee of Parliament. I have made it clear earlier and would like to restate that all options are open before the Standing Committee. Undoubtedly, they would be entitled to consider, in detail and clause by clause, subject to their discretion, not only the Bill introduced by us but the Jan Lokpal Bill and other versions like those prepared by Ms. Aruna Roy. Equally, I do maintain that they are fully entitled to make any changes to the Bill introduced by the Govt. and referred to them. In that view of the matter, the formal non introduction of the Jan Lokpal Bill version by the government is irrelevant and would largely boil down to a semantic debate.

Nevertheless, in view of the concern repeatedly expressed by your team that the Jan Lokpal Bill version should be before Parliament, but more particularly and more importantly, in view of my deep and abiding concern for your health, our government is prepared to request the Speaker, Lok Sabha to formally refer the Jan Lokpal Bill also to the Standing Committee for their holistic consideration along with everything else. Furthermore, if you have any anxieties about time and speed, the Government can formally request the Standing Committee to try, subject to its discretion and the necessity to reflect deeply and spend adequate time on an important Bill, and fast track their deliberations to the extent reasonably feasible.

I would like to say that this letter and each suggestion herein is actuated solely by the twin considerations of deep and genuine concern about your health and the emergence of a strong and effective Lok Pal Act in accordance with established constitutional precept and practice.

I do hope that you will consider my suggestions and end your fast to regain full health and vitality.

Constiuent Assembly Debate -“If the elected fail the masses of India will through up men of resolve

Rajendra_Prasad and R.L.Lakhina

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When the country needs men of character, they will be coming up and the masses will throw them up- Dr Rajendra Prasad while accepting the Constitution of India

Whatever the Constitution may or may not provide, the welfare of the country will depend upon the way in which the country is administered. That will depend upon the men who administer it. It is a trite saying that a country can have only the Government it deserves. Our Constitution has provision in it which appear to some to be objectionable from one point or another. We must admit that the defects are inherent in the situation in the country and the people at large. If the people who are elected are capable and men of character and integrity, they would be able to make the best even of a defective Constitution.

If they are lacking in these, the Constitution cannot help the country.

After all, a Constitution like a machine is a lifeless thing. It acquires life because of the men who control it and operate it, and India needs today nothing more than a set of honest men who will have the interest of the country before them. There is a fissiparous tendency arising out of various elements in our life. We have communal differences, caste differences, language differences, provincial differences and so forth.

It requires men of strong character, men of vision, men who will not sacrifice the interests of the country at large for the sake of smaller groups and areas and who will rise over the prejudices which are born of these differences. We can only hope that the country will throw up such men in abundance. I can say this from the experience of the struggle that we have had during the period of the freedom movement that new occasions throw up new men; not once but almost on every occasion when all leading men in the Congress were clapped into prison suddenly without having the time to leave instructions to others and even to make plans for carrying on their campaigns, people arose from amongst the masses who were able to continue and conduct the campaigns with intelligence, with initiative, with capacity for organization which nobody suspected they possessed.

I have no doubt that when the country needs men of character, they will be coming up and the masses will throw them up.

Let not those who have served in the past therefore rest on their oars, saying that they have done their part and now has come the time for them to enjoy the fruits of their labours. No such time comes to anyone who is really earnest about his work.

In India today I feel that the work that confronts us is even more difficult than the work which we had when we were engaged in the struggle. We did not have then any conflicting claims to reconcile, no loaves and fishes to distribute, no powers to share. We have all these now, and the temptations are really great. Would to God that we shall have the wisdom and the strength to rise above them, and to serve the country which we have succeeded in liberating.