, by RAJINDAR SACHAR
A restrained approach by the government alone can prevent a mass collision with the masses who are determined to vigorously pursue their struggle for an effective Lok Pal, observes RAJINDAR SACHAR
As expected the Government and Anna Team have disagreed on vital points. The question of inclusion of Prime Minister within the ambit of Lok Pal is being falsely blown out of proportions by government apologists. Prime Minister, though head of the Government, is only first amongst equals. In a democratic country, political vacuum does not arise as the cabinet has a collective responsibility. Also our experience does not show that all our Prime Ministers have been angels. Serious credible accusations have been made against them. The regret always was that in the absence of independent mechanism like Lok Pal to enquire into these allegations the ruling party was able successfully to scuttle any honest independent enquiry.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has publically consented to be included within the jurisdiction as had his predecessor Vajpayee – the supposed concern of the Ministers is puerile, being more loyalist than the king.
The stand of Ministers for exclusion of Prime Minister is so incongruous when it is noted that standing committee on law and justice headed by Congress spokesperson Jayanti Natarajan has said that the Bill should cover Prime Minister also.
This cynicism is increased when we find that Digvijay Singh, the self proclaimed alter ego of the Rahul Gandhi supports Lok Pal having jurisdiction over Prime Minister – people are legitimately hoping that Rahul Gandhi would also indicate his position on a matter which is causing such a division in the society.
The suggestion to exclude is sought to be justified by Ministers by taking the puerile plea that Prime Minister continues to be under the jurisdiction of Prevention of Corruption Act. Surprising that Ministers are comfortable for Prime Minister being prosecuted at the report of junior police official but not at the instance of high powered body like Lokpal. Isn’t the unspoken premise that under Corruption Act CBI will have to get sanction from the Government – ergo, which subordinate will dare to sanction Prime Minister’s prosecution.
For Heaven’s sake do not play joke with the people and be reminded of what John Adams, one of founding fathers of US Constitution said, “The people have a right, an inalienable, indisputable, indefeasible, divine right to that most dreaded and envied kind of knowledge – I mean of the character and conduct of their Rulers”.
Another laughable justification by Ministers is that the exemption will not be applicable after Prime Minister has remitted office – this is like locking the stable after the horses have run away. Incidentally, even the discredited toothless draft Lok Pal Bill 2010, included the Prime Minister and Members of Parliament.
The inclusion of Higher Judiciary consisting of Judges of Supreme Court under Lok Pal is undesirable. I am conscious of the shame that some in the Higher Judiciary has polluted the institution. I am only suggesting a separate National Judicial Accountability Commission. Call it Lok Pal (Judicial) with same powers as Lok Pal. This will serve the purpose and still keep the distance between executive and judiciary as mandated by the Constitution.
The rhetoric of Kapil Sibal challenging anyone to give an example “which P.M. in the office anywhere has been prosecuted in the world” I am sorry at this rhetorical ignorance – possibly it is due to Kapil being not assisted by his usually competent juniors when he was appearing in courts, and now possibly he is being ill served by his public relations officer – otherwise he would have been told that the present Prime Minister of Italy is being prosecuted before a magistrate on charges of corruption and mafia contact and sex deviations behaviour. In France proceedings were started against the then President Chirac for misappropriation of public money. Also in Israel a former President has been sentenced to imprisonment for his deviant sexual behaviour by a magistrate.
The near contempt of masses protesting at the scourge of corruption is shown by Sibal comparing Anna Hazare “to Pied Piper of Hamlin”. Sibal cautiously did not complete the story because those who are said to have followed the Pied Piper were rats and following the piper just drowned into the sea. I need not comment on such crude and insulting comparison of the masses who are waging a struggle against corruption.
Government’s spurious claim by purporting to project Parliament as the real Sovereign is fallacious, as said by Dicey, the British Constitutional authority, who says, “electorate is in fact the sovereign of England and the conduct of the legislature…. should be regulated by understandings of which the object is to secure the conformity of parliament to the will of the nation (emphasis supplied)”.
Another heresy put forth against holding of protest meetings by people to force government to pass a worthwhile legislation is that it is undemocratic and the only resort people have is to try to persuade the legislators to pass a particular law and if they do not agree then they should try their chance at elections. This is sheer heresy and negated by the Supreme Court (1960) in the case of Dr. Lohia, who had been arrested for asking farmers not to pay the increase of canal water rates to U.P. Government.
Ordering the release of Dr. Lohia, the court said “We cannot accept the argument of the learned Advocate General that instigation of a single individual not to pay tax or dues is a spark which may in the long run ignite a revolutionary movement destroying public order. We can only say that fundamental rights cannot be controlled on such hypothetical and imaginary considerations. It is said that in a democratic set up there is no scope for agitational approach and that if a law is bad the only course is to get it modified by democratic process and that any instigation to break the law is in itself a disturbance of the public order. If this argument without obvious limitations be accepted, it would destroy the right to freedom of speech which is the very foundation of democratic way of life.”
A restrained approach by the government alone can prevent a mass collision with the masses who are determined to vigorously pursue their struggle for an effective Lok Pal.
[The writer is Former Chief Justice of High Court of Delhi]