Corruption has become a secular evil to live with. Anna Hazare has struck a chord with the common man. However, the controversies continue to dog. The Jan Lokpal Bill has united the common men but divided many, khadi wearing pot-bellied leaders in particular. Some have camouflaged their discomfort with an ideological guise or intellectual argument. RTI activist, Magsaysay award winner and a member on the joint committee for drafting the Lokpal Bill, Arvind Kejariwal speaks to Shitanshu Shekhar Shukla on all issues, including the recent controversies.
Q. What If Lokpal himself becomes corrupt?
A. In order to ensure only an incorrigible person occupies the coveted post of Lokpal, there will be committees to select him. Election is not an option. The committees will have representatives of legislature, judiciary besides the civil society. If Lokpal were still to be found indulging in corrupt practices, the Supreme Court would expeditiously look and decide within stipulated period of one month whether the case prima facie holds water. If yes, a recommendation would be placed before the President of India to remove the Lokpal.
Q. The panel will, we hear, include Prime Minister, leader of opposition, Supreme Court judges etc. Since the Lokpal will have jurisdiction over them all, will not it lead to deadlocks? Don’t you think consensus will be elusive?
A. It may. Yes. But there is no option.
Q. The CD controversy has dented the credibility of the Bhushans. They are still on the panel. What is important for you at this stage -- Probity or legal brain?
A. True that they are on the panel only and only because the draft needs a legal brain. At this stage at least. One can say that probity is not so important as legal brain to draft the Bill. However, we emphasise on both – probity and legal brain. Both Prashant and Shanti Bhushan are clean lawyers. Not a single case has ever been proved against them. Not only that we, each one of us, are open to any independent inquiry. We are writing letter to the prime minister and the SC judges to hold against us any independent investigation they want. The CD was circulated and made by the corrupt forces trying to disrupt and divert the movement.
Q. Some politicians appeared to run a smear campaign against you all. Probably they saw the movement as opposed to them.
A. No. Not the entire political class. Only the corrupt elements did it because they felt threatened.
Q. Could you have avoided the controversy if you had a politician on your side?
A. No. Because it would have invited us more trouble. We would have been identified with certain party. Even as we are all apolitical, allegations fly thick and fast against us that we are getting help from this party or that party. Imagine what would have happened if we had beside us a politician.
Q. Will the Lokpal have enough teeth to bite? Or will it be just a barking watchdog? Hawala case is a poignant reminder. Despite the Jain diary mentioning the high and mighty, the case fell flat in the court. The shoddy investigators can sabotage the best of cases.
A. The Jan Lokpal Bill gives Lokpal enough teeth to bite. It will have its own prosecuting and investigating agency. The CBI dealing with corruption cases will come under jurisdiction of Lokpal.
Q. There are some disconcerting voices that your movement is running down the democracy.
A. I have before me a news clipping. Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyer has been reported as saying that the anti-corruption movement spearheaded by civil society is undermining democracy. Frankly, I am unable to understand it. The power of legislature to legislate has not been and can’t be usurped. We are only trying to give a few inputs but it will be for Parliament to discuss, debate and pass the Bill. We are strengthening democracy, not weakening it. It is similar to pre budget exercise when finance minister meets and invites several economists, business honchos for their views and their expectations from the budget. The intention is to help each other and grow economically faster. We are also doing same thing here. Is it a mute society which they want to rule? A speaking, discussing, deliberating society can make a democracy participatory. This is our sole objective and we shall achieve it.