Weak Lokpal: Et tu, Kejriwal?


A day after AAP leaders Kumar Vishwas and Sanjay Singh sounded out anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare on Delhi Jan Lokpal Bill 2015 tabled by their government, former party leader Prashant Bhushan on Friday met the social activist in Ralegan Siddhi to explain main flaws in the bill.

Bhushan claims the lacunas in the AAP’s Lokpal bill make it pretty weak as compared to the original draft of the bill from 2014 which the party had failed to table by virtue of the alleged opposition by the BJP and Congress.

The Delhi cabinet on Thursday cleared two amendments to the Delhi Jan Lokpal Bill, 2015 after Kejriwal assured Hazare to implement his suggestions in the bill.

One amendment proposes a seven-member panel to select two members and chairperson in the institution of Jan Lokpal. Now, the proposed new members will include another judge from the high court, any eminent personality selected by the rest of the committee members and the Lokpal chairman from the next term.

As for removal of Lokpal, there would be a high court inquiry first before referring the matter to the assembly, two-thirds of the Delhi assembly can vote to remove the ombudsman.

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However, seeking the reinstatement of the original draft of the 2014 bill, Bhushan explained to Hazare the major flaws in the ombudsman that includes the clause which allows the Delhi Lokpal the power to investigate charges of corruption against central government employees. This, he believes, could lead to an unnecessary impasse.

Bhushan alleged that this provision has been introduced with malafide intentions to ensure that the central government does not approve and the bill never gets passed. The AAP will then claim that it tried to pass the Jan Lokpal Bill, but the central government obstructed it.

Furthermore, Bhushan has alleged no investigative machinery has been given to or placed under Delhi Lokpal as per section 10 in the proposed bill. Without its own independent officers, solely recruited for and dedicated to the institution, the Lokpal would merely be like the various other commissions and tribunals.

He has also claimed that the AAP government wanted the appointment of the Lokpal to be controlled by the political class and would not let any appointment be made without the approval of ruling party as the selection committee for the Lokpal would consist of High Court Chief Justice, the Chief Minister, Assembly Speaker and Leader of Opposition.

Hazare has assured Bhushan to look into the matter. Needless to say, considering the flaws pointed out by Bhushan, who was expelled from the party along with Yogendra Yadav, the Lokpal introduced by the Delhi government comes across as pretty weak and a watered down version of the 2014 Lokpal.

The Delhi government, with 67 MLAs out of total 70 in the state Assembly, was expected to bring a strong anti-corruption ombudsman, but one fails to understand why, despite the overwhelming majority, Kejriwal has tried to compromise on the effectiveness of the Lokpal.

Is it the case that now when Kejriwal and his supporters have found their way to the corridors of powers, they have realized that in order to survive in the system corruption is a necessity? Is he in a way trying to aid corruption by introducing an apparently weak Lokpal?

It is a pity that a party that came into existence on the plank of an anti-corruption movement is apparently being soft on the issue of graft. It is an injustice to the lakhs of volunteers and supporters of the AAP who saw a ray of hope in the fledgling party and sacrificed their time and money to build it from the scratch.

Kejriwal must answer these tough questions that make AAP look like a mirror image of other political parties. What is it that differentiates AAP from others?

Tum toh un jaise nikle (Alas, you also turned out like others).

(Image: Indian Express)