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Sunday 1 January 2012



The manner in which the government orchestrated the disruption of the proceedings in the Rajya Sabha yesterday and prevented a vote on the opposition's amendments to the government's lokpal bill expose the hollowness of it's claim that it is committed to an effective anti corruption legislation. The bill brought and passed in the Lok Sabha by the government is a cruel joke on the people in the name of a lokpal bill. This Bill is not only ineffective but some of its provisions are a threat to democracy and would end up weakening the existing anti-corruption systems. It seeks to set up a lokpal which is selected and controlled by the government. It has no investigative machinery of its own and would have to rely on a government controlled investigative organizations. Moreover it's jurisdiction has been limited to only 5% of the public servants, largely excluding M.P.s judges, even the PM for most purposes and all of the lower bureaucracy. Instead of these lakhs of non government organisations which have nothing to do with the government have been included in this ‘Shasak’ -pal's jurisdiction. Every kind of hurdle has been placed in the investigation while every facility including free legal services has been provided to the accused persons.

The Judicial accountability bill and the Whistle blower bill brought by the government are also equally bad. The  judicial accountability bill does not deal with corruption investigation of judges at all and even for probing judicial misconduct it sets up bodies which are neither independent of the judiciary nor of the government. The whistle blower bill just seeks to give statutory status to the totally ineffective existing mechanism of the CVC looking into complaints by whistle blowers.

The proceedings of the last three days in Parliament have brought to the fore some critical deficiencies in our democracy. These proceedings have demonstrated how the Indian democracy and Parliament are hostage to the ruling party after elections for the next five years. We saw how the Parliament was rendered helpless by the ruling party in the last three days. In Lok Sabha, the ruling coalition has a majority. The Bill presented by the Government was very weak and ineffective. The whole country had criticized it. The Opposition presented 55 amendments to this Bill in Lok Sabha. One cannot say that all of them were irrelevant and useless amendments. In fact, some of these amendments were quite good like the amendments dealing with independence of CBI, independent selection process etc. However, not a single amendment presented by the Opposition was accepted.
Using its brute majority, the ruling party defeated all the amendments, not because they were bad. Therefore, the amendments were defeated on considerations other than merit. The country lost, the ruling party won. It also raised an important issue that if the ruling party has a majority in a House, is the role of opposition reduced to merely giving speeches, because the outcome of every motion is already known?

The Bill was introduced in Rajya Sabha yesterday where the ruling party does not have a majority.187 amendments were presented in Rajya Sabha by the Opposition. It is learnt that on 3 issues, there was near unanimity amongst all opposition parties namely Independence of CBI, Selection and removal process and Non-inclusion of Lokayukta. If this Bill had been put to vote, these 3amendments would have been carried. At least two of them are extremely critical for an effective anti-corruption system. The ruling party adopted a “my way or high way” approach. They were obstinate, not willing to listen to anyone. They did not want any of these amendments to go through. According to media reports, Lalu Yadav and his RJD were roped in to create chaos in the Parliament. His MPs tore off the Bill and created ruckus in Parliament. At least half an hour before this actually happened, all the TV channels started announcing that this would happen which clearly shows that this was choreographed a clear case of match fixing in Parliament. Speakers were allowed to give lengthy speeches to kill time. And then taking shelter behind Parliamentary procedures, the Parliament was adjourned Sine Die at midnight without voting.

Just before the Parliament was adjourned, Pawan Bansal from the ruling party said that since there were 187 amendments, the Government needed time to study and respond. This was just an excuse because the same Government could respond to 55 amendments in Lok Sabha when those amendments were likely to be defeated. But when there was a likelihood of some of these amendments being carried, the government said that they would need time to study them. Obviously this was an excuse. The government just had to put them to vote and the amendments which got carried had to be incorporated in the Law.

The government used everything in its control to avoid voting yesterday. They did the same thing on27th August when there was a strong demand to have a voting on the Parliamentary resolution. If the government would avoid voting like this, what would be left of democracy?

In Lok Sabha, the government misused its majority. In Rajya Sabha, the government misused its control over parliamentary procedures. Since the ruling party has a complete control over parliamentary procedures like whether to allow voting or not, when would the Parliament convene, till when would the Parliament sit, when would the Bill be introduced etc, the bill was not allowed to be voted upon. Therefore, there was no vote either on the Bill or on the amendments. This is what the government wanted. The proceedings demonstrated complete helplessness of the Parliament before the ruling party. It also exposed the hollowness of the claim that Parliament represents the will of the people.

Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. This is what is happening to the Government. The Government is all powerful and accountable to none. Theoretically the Government is accountable to the Parliament. But the developments of the last three days have demonstrated how the ruling party and the government can render Parliament helpless. Since ruling party has a majority and the government has control over parliamentary procedures, the accountability of government to Parliament is theoretical and does not exist in practice.

The experience with the anti corruption campaign has shown that the present model of representative democracy needs to be improved to put in place a model of participatory democracy where people will have a direct say in law and policy making. The anti corruption campaign will need to be widened to campaign for the strengthening of democracy apart from putting in place an effective and strong Lokpal.

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