|Thursday, 07 April 2011 00:00|
When someone of social activist Anna Hazare’s stature goes on a fast-unto-death asking for a truly empowered Lok Pal instead of a watered-down one, the initial reaction is to support him—the alternative is to support a government that continues to reel under all manner of corruption charges. This resolve gets strengthened when you see the who’s who of civil society lined up behind him—Kiran Bedi, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Swami Agnivesh, Baba Ramdev, Mallika Sarabhai; news reports suggest bodies of teachers and students are rallying to his cause; anxious not to be found wanting, some Bollywood actors are coming on board and even former MP Pappu Yadav who is in jail for murder has been moved enough to announce his own fast-unto-death in support of Anna Hazare. Needless to say, political parties like the BJP and the Shiv Sena have announced their support for Hazare.
Before rushing headlong into supporting Hazare, it’s a good idea to see what the current versions of the Lok Pal Bill are offering and what Hazare wants. The original idea of the Lok Pal is that the Lok Pal be something of an ombudsman, inquiring into charges made into even the Prime Minister and then referring them for investigation to bodies like the CBI, even monitoring the investigation—in other words, the Lok Pal was to be an addition, a valuable addition, to the current lot of investigative/judicial bodies. Hazare’s Jan Lok Pal, on the other hand, sees itself as a one-man dispenser of justice. The Lok Pal would file FIRs, investigate, arrest and prosecute. In the name of speedy, cheap and egalitarian justice, this office would subsume the CBI’s anti-corruption wing and the CVC. It will have the power to issue search warrants, it will be a deemed police officer, it will have its own benches to try cases, it can cancel licences and blacklist companies/contractors … Of course there is a problem with the functioning of the CBI and the CVC, but the solution lies in fixing them. Setting up another overarching institution to replace them is no solution—never mind if the head and members of the Lok Pal are to be chosen by a committee that comprises, among others, all nobel laureates of Indian origin, the last two Magasaysay award winners of Indian origin and those who have won Bharat Ratnas. Institutions, no matter how great, cannot be built by finishing off other institutions.