The Jan Lokpal Bill:
The Jan Lokpal Bill, also designated as the Citizen’s Ombudsman Bill, is essentially an anti – graft bill, attempting to eradicate corruption, indemnify discontented citizens and offer protection to individuals who are proactive in the public disclosure of corruption. Designed by the civil society activists, the Bill advocates the assignment of a Jan Lokpal, an independent authority for investigating instances of corruption. Amendments for the Lokpal and Lokyukta Bill of 2011, scheduled to be passed in the Lok sabha in December, 2011, are also suggested in the said Bill. The prefix ‘Jan’ (Citizens) indicates that the amendments under the Bill are inclusive of the admonitions of the ‘ordinary citizens’ propelled essentially by advocators and public deliberations, free from any political or governmental bias. A concentrated campaign designated ‘India Against Corruption’ (IAC) was implemented in 2011with Anna Hazare leading the IAC and the civil society movements.
Anna Hazare on hunger strike again to uphold the issue of the Jan Lokpal Bill:
As of December 10th, 2013, the Gandhian anti – graft activist Anna Hazare had commenced upon his indeterminate hunger strike in an attempt to compel the Government for the immediate implementation of the Jan Lokpal Bill in the present winter session of the Parliament. In a statement to the media just before embarking on the indefinite hunger strike, Hazare had announced, “Jan Lokpal Bill will be a big step towards nation building”. Alleging the Congress Party of being untrustworthy and betrayal, Hazare also pointed out that, the UPA II Government had outlived its time and now either the Government should live up to its promises or discontinue.
Anna Hazare, the social activist, who had first come under the spotlight with his hunger strikes in Delhi regarding the said issue had opted for the Baba Yadav Temple at his birthplace, the Ralegan Siddi village, as the location for his present hunger strike. Hazare commented to the media a few days back that the time has come for a reality check for the Congress party in the light of its crushing defeat in the assembly elections and that they should implement the Jan Lokpal Bill without delay in the ongoing winter session of the Parliament. He added that the Parliamentary Affairs Minister had in a written communication informed the Government of the minutes of the stepwise procedure to be implemented in passing the Jan Lokpal Bill.
Hazare had also raised the important question, “If the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh can pledge to get the Prevention of Communal Violence Bill passed in Parliament, why can’t he do the same for the much delayed anti – graft law?” Recollecting his experience of his last hunger strike in Delhi, pushing the same issue, Hazare commented, “Sonia Gandhi wrote a letter saying that the government is ready to bring the Jan Lokpal Bill and asked me to end my fast. I trusted her and I ended my fast. I did not know that the UPA government will betray the public and me”. When asked whether the presence of Arvind Kejriwal, the chief of the Aam Aadmi Party, in Ralegan Siddi, would be a welcome factor to support his hunger strike, Hazare had replied that anybody and everybody who does not represent a political party color is welcome and that includes Kejriwal. He added that, “If one wants to bring in change in the country, then only government, opposition or any other party, they cannot change the future of the country…..It has been made clear in the 68 years of independence”. He further added some more opinions in Hindi which translated roughly mean that, the fight is against those individuals who are using the system of this country to meet their own aspirations as per their own terms.
BJP’s full support to the Jan Lokpal Bill:
Opposition party BJP has fully supported the Jan Lokpal Bill and had confronted the Government to pass the said Bill in the ongoing winter session of the Parliament. As per the statements on behalf of the BJP, “The Jan Lokpal Bill was sent to a Select Committee of the Rajya Sabha. The Committee, which was headed by a Congress member, Satyavrat Chaturvedi held several sittings and all political parties were privy to it. There were 13 unanimous recommendations adopted by the Committee”. As of 12th December, 2013, BJP leader Arun Jaitley commented, “Government should bring the Bill with these amendments and BJP will support it along with the UPA. The Rajya Sabha can pass it tomorrow, and it can be passed by the Lok Sabha on Monday”.
The pressure of the opposition regarding the Jan Lokpal issue had intensified further in the backdrop of the hunger strike of Anna Hazare and the emergence of the AAP in the Delhi assembly elections as a significant political force. BJP had also pointed out that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had been deliberately delaying the Bill, when the Select Committee has furnished the completed report on the Bill on December 23rd, 2012. The main Opposition had also emphatically underlined the fact that, the Select Committee Report is technically a possession of the Upper House and the Union Cabinet does not have any power to ameliorate the said report. Jaitley had further confirmed that, only the Rajya Sabha is entitled to make any amendments in the Jan Lokpal Bill, and then forward it to the Lok Sabha for futher consideration before the final passage.
The BJP also suggested that the Bill be passed by dropping the two points on which the Government seems to disagree. Government is at cross – purposes with the amendment in the Bill which suggests consultation of Lokpal before the transference of a CBI officer involved in an active investigation. While the Opposition emphasizes that the said amendment is aimed to provide more autonomy to the CBI and thwart any unwanted intervention on the part of the Government, the Government is arguing that it has absolute rights of posting and transferring officials as it considers necessary. The other amendment which is a cause of disagreement between the Opposition and the Government involves the inspection and confiscation of an official’s property. While the Government is of the opinion that, a show cause notice should be served first in case of an official is charged with irregular possessions, the opposition maintains that a show cause notice will only put the individual on guard and take away the element of surprise.
Six decades have passed since the country has been independent. During this time only one thing has been increasing consistently plaguing every strata of the society, the Government, the politics and in fact the system of the entire nation. That parasite is called ‘corruption’ feeding on the resources of the common citizens of India and the country itself. The regime of the current UPA II Government had witnessed innumerable scams and scandals involving the misappropriation of the country’s assets. No scam in our country occurs without a green signal from the politicians in the high places and all the cases of corruption unraveled so far had a deep political nexus.
The Jan Lokpal Bill was drafted jointly by N. Santosh Hegde, a former justice of the Supreme Court, Arvind Kejriwal, the present chief of the AAP and a social activist and Prashant Bhushan, a senior lawyer in the Supreme Court. According to Anna Hazare, “The Jan Lokpal Bill is an act to create effective anti – corruption and grievance redressal systems at the Centre so that an effective deterrent is created for corruption that also provides effective protection to whistleblowers”.
Anna Hazare, the iron – willed corruption crusader, in his mid seventies had embarked on a cross country journey of 18 months to uphold the cause of the original Jan Lokpal Bill. The first step in this war against corruption was the envisagement of the Janatantra Morcha an organization free of any political bias whose sole motive is to change the system of the country for the better. Now Hazare has entered the second phase of his fight against corruption with the hunger strike. The system of our country has become the Augean Stables and we need a Herculean effort to clean it up. The passing of the Jan Lokpal Bill might just be the first step in doing so.