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'Efforts underway to delay Lok Pal bill'

April 19, 2011 12:09 IST
'Basically today there is a dirty war regarding the Lok Pal bill and many persons are being targeted,' an insider tells Vicky Nanjappa

There are ample signs that the Government of India is doing things to split up civil society groups in order to delay or push under the carpet the Lok Pal bill which has created such a hue and cry over the past few days.

A member of the committee, speaking under condition of anonymity, said the bill affects those who are in the seat of power or people close to them and "hence we get the indication that there are attempts to delay or stall it".

Currently there is a demand that the Bill come into force by August 15 or the government will face the ire of the people. However, this seems unlikely and some members, who are part of the drafting committee, even expressed the view that they would like the bill to see the light of the day at least before they die – a testimony to the delays expected and involved.

Sources point out that at the moment it looks like very unlikely that the Bill will be out soon. "Go back to the first meeting of the drafting committee. One would say that it was the only cordial meeting and after that nothing has been smooth. There are allegations against the likes of Shanti Bhushan and such things have only added to the delay, and when people demand that the bill should come out by August 15 I find it highly unlikely to happen," said one of the persons involved with the process. "Basically today there is a dirty war regarding this bill and many persons are being targeted. Now these are persons who can contribute their knowledge which in turn would make the bill a good one. These are all eminent personalities and can contribute their solutions. The government ought to realise that this bill is needed and should be implemented soon."

Things within the committee began to change when the government started realising the seriousness of the bill. As pointed out, initially the meeting was very cordial. The government did think that it could push this bill like it would any other bill. However, one of the civil rights groups began questioning the government, which was when matters turned ugly and the government decided to wage a dirty war against some members of the committee. Moreover, there is also a writ petition against the constitution of the committee which again ensures that there will be a further delay.

The source also goes on to point out that at the moment more and more rights groups are coming forward to be part of the bill. "It is not possible to accommodate each and everyone. Some come with genuine suggestions while others come with an agenda. This is a peoples' bill and those who want to contribute can always go on to the website and make their suggestions," he said.

At the rate at which the proceedings are on, it looks highly unlikely the bill will be out anytime soon. "The objective behind the bill is being defeated and instead of moving forward, the government is trying to lure people into a consultation process which is only delaying the process further," the source said.

Some of the demands from the rights groups also seem to be a road-blocker. One such demand was to introduce life imprisonment in corruption cases. "This is not going to happen since it overrides the Constitution, the Indian Penal Code and also the Prevention of Corruption Act. It would be madness to sentence a police constable to life imprisonment for accepting a bribe of Rs 50. The Prevention of Corruption Act does make a provision for seven years imprisonment, and this is good enough," the source said.

"However, what was surprising is that the demand by the people has really hit the government hard. This does not concern the people directly but involves those high up in the seat of power and those close to them. With the amount of corruption that is on at the highest levels, such a bill would prove lethal to most of them and it was expected that the government would go out of its way to try and stall it like how it has been done since the past 42 years."

Vicky Nanjappa