Five reasons why AAP Lokpal is Mahajokepal

Delhi chief minister and AAP supremo Arvind Kejriwal found himself in a fix after Swaraj Abhiyan leader Prashant Bhushan at a scathing press conference on Sunday elucidated how the Delhi Lokpal Bill 2015 had gone back on all the main promises of the Jan Lokpal movement, calling it a ‘cruel joke’ on the people.

Bhushan, flanked by AAP founding member and his father Shanti Bhushan, reminded Kejriwal and his supporters that one of the reasons of formation of the Aam Aadmi Party was to realize the long-standing dream of an independent Lokpal, which would curb corruption and weed out corrupt elements out of the system.

Yogendra Yadav, the expelled AAP founding member, in a Facebook post, mentioned the demands made by the Lokpal movement.

  • The appointment of the Lokpal was to be done in an open manner by involving the public in the search process.
  • The final selection of the Lokpal was to be done by a committee where independent, non-political and non-governmental appointees had a majority.
  • A special investigative agency was to be created by or controlled by the Lokpal.
  • The jurisdiction of the Lokpal was to be extended to all the functionaries of the relevant government.

When the fledgling party secured a historic victory in the Delhi Assembly polls last year, it was expected that the dream of having a strong, independent Lokpal would come true. However, Bhushan said, “Under pressure due to unjustified delay, the Delhi government has tabled a Jan Lokpal Bill, a cheating to the people and the Lokpal movement.”

Here are the five reasons why it’s ‘Mahajokepal’:

  1. Appointment of Lokpal

Bhushan, who reportedly has a copy of the Delhi Lokpal Bill 2015, in a statement said that the selection committee for the Lokpal would consist of High Court Chief Justice, the Chief Minister, Assembly Speaker and Leader of Opposition.

He alleged that this clause made it clear that the AAP government wanted the appointment of Lokpal to be controlled by the political class and would not let any appointment be made without the approval of ruling party.

Jan Lokpal movement’s promise

The Janlokpal bill had, on the other hand, envisioned that the appointments be made independent of the will of the political class.

“But the provision in the present bill cheats the spirit of an independent Janlokpal. Out of the four members in selection committee, three would be from the political class. This is completely contrary to what Arvind Kejriwal has had always said about the independence of the ombudsman,” Bhushan said.

  1. Removal of Chairperson or members of the Jan Lokpal

In the Jan Lokpal bill introduced by Delhi government, as per the provisions mentioned in section 6(1) of the proposed bill, the Lokpal can be removed by a motion passed by the Delhi assembly by a 2/3rd majority of the members present and voting in the assembly.

“Needless to say, if the act sees the light of the day, the Lokpal will be completely at the mercy of AAP government,” Bhushan alleged.

Jan Lokpal movement’s promise

The Jan Lokpal movement had always argued that the anti-corruption and investigating agencies end up becoming instruments in the hands of ruling governments. So there was a pressing need for an effective Lokpal that would be delinked from any interference of ruling governments and political control.

“It is sad to see the AAP bringing a bill which would ultimately leave the Lokpal at the mercy of Delhi government, making it a joke,” Bhushan said.

  1. Investing machinery not independent

Bhushan alleged that 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.

“This effectively means that the Lokpal will have to carry its investigations through officers and machinery provided by governments. Needless to say the investigating officers would obviously be under the control of those governments which provide it.”

Jan Lokpal movement’s promise

The Janlokpal movement, Bhushan said, had always stressed that investigating officers should be free of the influence or control of any government. It was argued that no less than an independent investigative machinery vested with the institution of Lokpal would be effective in curbing corruption.

  1. Jurisdiction of the Lokpal

The former AAP leader claimed that as per the present bill, the jurisdiction of the Lokpal would be to investigate any corruption offense in Delhi, be it various agencies and functions under the central government. It means that the state Lokpal can investigate the central government as well. This, he said, has been deliberately done to invite confrontation with the Centre

Jan Lokpal movement’s promise

“This is totally contrary to what was envisaged in our Jan Lokpal bill where the state Lokayukta were supposed to investigate the corruption of officers of state governments only and the Central Lokpal would investigate the officers from central government, “ Bhushan said.

He 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.

  1. Penalty on false complaints

Bhushan claimed the Delhi Jan Lokpal Bill 2015 prescribes 1-year jail for false complaints, the falsity of which will be decided by this ‘Sarkari Lokpal’.

Jan Lokpal movement’s promise

“This is also what we had fought against since it will deter complainants. It is not there in the Uttarakhand bill which Kejriwal said this is modeled on,” Bhushan said.

The Swaraj Abhiyan leader slammed the AAP government for not making the draft public to enable public consultation and comments.

“The plan was to pass this Maha joke pal bill with a dramatic flourish and then play victim by claiming that the Central govt is obstructing it,” Bhushan said, adding, The Delhi Jan Lokpal Bill, 2015 is not what the anti-corruption Lokpal movement had fought so deeply for. It is merely an eyewash and not the bill which made thousands and thousands volunteer for a crusade against corruption.”

Bhushan reminded Kejriwal that in fact, the present bill was worse than the central government’s Jan Lokpal Bill, against which the present Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal had spoken so vehemently.

“Leave alone ministers, not even a rat will go to jail on the basis of this Bill. No proper investigation will be possible under it,” Kejriwal had said in December 2013 regarding a proposed legislation by the central government while terming it a “Jokepal Bill”.

He posed following three questions to Kejriwal in this regard:

  1. We would like to know what compelled the Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal to now bring the Jokepal bill, which he had once fought against?
  2. Does he now believe that a corrupt rat will go to jail on the basis of this new bill?
  3. How would he guarantee that the proposed Lokpal will not end up becoming his political instrument against opponents/for corruption, as is the case with institutions like CBI or CVC?

It is hoped the ‘anti-corruption crusader’ Kejriwal would care to answer these pertinent questions, instead of terming anyone pointing out flaws in the Bill as ‘BJP supporters’. The Aam Aadmi Party that claims to represent the interest of the common man should clear the air as to what compelled it to introduce such a toothless and weak Lokpal as alleged by its founding members.

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