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Why is an honest PM scared of being probed by Lokpal: Team Hazare

Last updated on: June 13, 2011 23:02 IST

'Non-inclusion of PM under Lokpal a retrograde step'

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Civil society led by Anna Hazare on Monday hit back at the government over the charge that it was undermining Parliament and Constitution and asked why an "honest" man like Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is "scared" of being investigated by the Lokpal.

Two days ahead of the next meeting of the joint drafting committee on Lokpal Bill, civil society members shot off a letter to Singh alleging that the government appeared to be shrinking the scope of the anti-corruption regime and non-inclusion of the prime minister under the ambit of the Lokpal would be a "retrograde" step.

Raising their pitch on the issue, the activists also took on Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee for accusing the civil society of trying to undermine democracy and said his statement betrayed a "distorted understanding of democracy and arrogance of power".

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Image: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh

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'Why did govt take a U-turn on the issue post March 2011'

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"You are one of the most honest prime ministers the country has had. It is ironical that your own government should seek to take the prime minister out of the purview of Lokpal's investigations.

"We are wondering what happened post March 2011, which prompted the government to suddenly take a U-turn on this issue. Till now the prime minister could be investigated by the Central Bureau of Investigation. Why an honest prime minister like you should be scared of being investigated by an independent Lokpal," the activists said in the three-page letter to Singh.

Activist Arvind Kejriwal termed the government insistence on non-inclusion of the prime minister under the purview of Lokpal as "completely mysterious" when governments for the past ten years were of the view that this post should come under the ombudsman.

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Image: RTI activist Arvind Kejriwal

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'Is there a disconnect within the government?'

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In the letter, the activists said, in order to take the prime minister out of the purview of the ombudsman, the government will need to amend the Constitution and grant him immunity similar to that enjoyed by the President. They asked if the government is planning to do that and why.

"We remember in the past you had yourself offered to be brought under the purview of Lokpal Bill. Then why are your own ministers opposing your inclusion in Lokpal's ambit? Is there a disconnect or communication gap within the government?" the letter said.

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Image: Kiran Bedi with Anna Hazare. (Inset) Devinder Sharma

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'3 out of 5 ministers had advocated inclusion of PM in Lokpal'

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Interestingly, it said, three out of five ministers in the joint committee, have themselves advocated inclusion of the prime minister in Lokpal Bill on earlier occasions.

The letter also mentioned that Pranab Mukherjee, as chairman of the Standing Committee in 2001, had himself recommended that prime minister should be covered under Lokpal and the then prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had agreed to that.

It also said that Law Minister M Veerappa Moily, also a member of the Lokpal Bill, suggested inclusion of the prime minister in the legislation and Home Minister P Chidambaram had concurred with him.

"Now all the three ministers have suddenly taken a U-turn and they appear to be adamant on keeping the prime miniter's office out of Lokpal's ambit. We want to know what happened so that the PMO does not want any disclosure of its conduct," Kejriwal said.

Arguing for the inclusion of the prime minister under the Lokpal, the letter said the post is covered under the Prevention of Corruption Act and any allegation of corruption against a prime minister can be investigated. No exception has been made for the prime minister, they said.

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Image: Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee

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'Let the PM be investigated by an independent agency'

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The letter said the CBI does the investigations on allegations against the prime minister but the agency is under his control. They said the only change they were proposing was that rather than being investigated by an agency under his control, let the prime minister be investigated by an independent agency.

The letter also sought to know from Singh about the government stand that a prime minister under the scanner would become dysfunctional.

Noting that he had worked with former prime ministers Rajiv Gandhi and P V Narasimha Rao, they asked whether he felt that Gandhi became "dysfunctional" due to Bofors probe or Rao owing to the investigations into Jharkhand Mukti Morcha payoff case.

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Image: Former Indian prime minister P V Narasimha Rao
Photographs: Reuters
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'Security of country will be compromised if PM enjoys complete immunity'

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"Don't you feel that the security of the country itself would be seriously compromised if prime minister enjoyed complete immunity from any investigations and trials?" the letter said.

Taking on Mukherjee for his comments against the civil society that it will become a circus if the committee proceedings are televised, Prashant Bhushan asked whether by saying this, the finance minister was hinting that Parliament proceedings were a circus.

"The government says that they can't make the proceedings public or have a live telecast of the joint commitee meetings as it will become a circus. There is live telecast of Parliament proceedings. Does the prime minister and government think it is a circus in Parliament?" he said.

Asked why they were not pulling out of the drafting commitee as there was so much of mistrust, Kejriwal said they have to work with this. "At least, we can put on record our dissent note," he said.

 


Image: Indian Parliament
Photographs: B Mathu/Reuters
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