Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Jan Lokpal Bill would become another TADA or POTA

Well, it is not just Anna Hazare and his team who won this match comfortably. All actors who joined the show have won the match. Everyone – the “civil society” that sat on fast at Jantar Mantar and other places, the Corporate media, the glamour world, the Government, political establishment of all hues and shades – everyone who bothered to join the game. It was like bathing in the Ganges during the Maha Kumbh – everyone’s sins were washed away. And of course nobody in their right minds regardless of political affiliations or ideologies could take a position “for corruption”!!! A veritable Bush-ian position — either you are with Anna Hazare or you are with corruption. And yes, India Incorporated has won the match and it is time for celebrations!

The timing of course was impeccable. The drama was enacted exactly for five days in the interregnum between the cricket World Cup finals and the first Indian Premier League match leaving no scope for other infotainment distractions!
What is even more bizarre and insulting is the repeated argument that there is no one else in the country more eligible to take on corruption than Anna Hazare. The argument insults the multitudes that have been carrying on their struggles in various parts of India.

Overriding the Constitution

More than that the drama insults Constitutional mechanisms and processes thereunder – thereby insulting the very notion of “We, the People”. The need for a Constitutional process is to ensure institutional transparency and accountability. Whatever might be the pitfalls of political culture of transparency in India – the only institutional mechanism of making day to day governance accountable are the Constitutional processes. For instance the Right to Information Act is applicable only to State actors – so regardless of the Government notification and the bona fides of the actors concerned – how do Citizens ensure accountability from the self-appointed civil society guardians – or are they so sacred as to remain outside the scope and need for accountability.

In what can be termed an ironic twist – the draft Jan Lokpal Bill brings in newer categories of eligibility to the selection committee for appointment of Lokpal – Magsaysay Award winners and Nobel laureates of Indian origin. I keep wondering why these awards and why the insistence on “Indian” origin (I hope Sonia Gandhi reads this). Maybe it is mere coincidence that many of the faces that have appeared in this drama have a Magsaysay award tucked under their belt (and a sacred thread over their shoulder).

The draft bill itself blurs the line between investigation and adjudication. Meanwhile in its enthusiasm for a corruption free India and prescriptions for stringent punishment and easier prosecution– Anna Hazare and team seem to have no qualms in sacrificing precious civil liberty provisions inbuilt into the criminal justice system and prescribed by the Indian Constitution. While Baba Ramdev, one of the mentors of Anna Hazare’s crusade advocates capital punishment for the corrupt, the draft bill itself blurs the line between investigation and adjudication. It makes the Lokpal a super cop with adjudicatory and delegated legislative powers.

If the Jan Lokpal bill is accepted – it would achieve what the Malimath Committee on Reforms of Criminal Justice System could not – subversion of the Criminal Justice system. At the risk of repetition, I would point out that the bulldozing by Malimath Committee could be stopped because that committee and the implementation of its recommendations were subject to Constitutional procedures. What would emerge would be another draconian legislation which would be used to hound and prosecute political dissent – this time “corruption” would replace “terrorism” and “Maoism”. And this time the law would be presumed to have the sanction of a purported civil society.

Of a lesser concern is the fact that Republic India’s record at social reforms through criminal legislations has been abysmal – if in doubt – look at the implementation of the Dowry Prohibition Act or the SC/ST Atrocities Act. Dowry is as prevalent as ever while India Inc. continues to lynch Dalits and dispossess Adivasi

Who Loses?

The major casualty in this whole drama was democracy itself. Through short cuts and “royal avenues”, the power goes back into the hands of a select few, undoing a process of over sixty years of democratization of the country. Those few decide what is in the best interest of the country, and what is not. No prizes for guessing the class and caste composition of this select few.

Bobby Kunhu in Counter media. More Here.


Zubair Ahmed said...

Balanced views on Jan Lokpal Bill! Is this your idea of Justice, Luthfi?

Gayathri said...

I always thought Jan Lokpal is another TADA or POTA. Wanted to check if anyone has written anything about that and the keywords returned your post as the top result. Thank you for writing.


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