The Aruna Roy-led National Campaign for People’s Right to Information (NCPRI) on Saturday described activist Anna Hazare’s resolve to continue his fast till Parliament passed his version of the Lokpal bill as “dangerous’’ and “undemocratic”. Affirming faith in the parliamentary process, NCPRI members said that while the government draft left much to be desired, significant changes could be made in the pending anti-graft legislation. Arguing that Anna Hazare should not deride democratic institutions, NAC member Aruna Roy said the Gandhian was “ill-advise” adding, “We must assert our rights. But to get rid of these institutions would be a great disaster for all the people in this country. We must make these democratic institutions work for us and they must work for us.’’ Roy said that NCPRI would take their version of the Lokpal bill and the accompanying basket of measures to the Standing Committee and the Hazare group should do the same. In an apparent reference to Hazare setting a deadline to pass the Jan Lokpal Bill, she said, “I think Annaji is ill-advised...anyone who says my view should be the only view is wrong.” Former Chief Justice of Delhi High Court Justice A P Shah said that the deadline on Parliament was “dictatorial and undemocratic”. He added, “What will happen to this country if every group starts insisting on passing their own laws? It a most unreasonable demand and I have serious doubts that they understand the implications of their demand.’’ Another NAC member Harsh Mander said that it was the right of all people to be heard and no one could claim to represent all people.
NCPRI's draft Lokpal bill
The draft of NCPRI's version of the Lokpal bill, made public in July, seeks to include the Prime Minister, just like provisions in the Jan Lokpal bill, as well as all levels of bureaucracy and the judiciary in the Lokpal’s ambit but with specific conditions. The stand taken in the NCPRI's draft bill is that the Prime Minister's inclusion must ensure that no investigation would be launched involving him unless the full bench of the Central Anti-Corruption Lokpal has, based on evidence available, recommend such an investigation. On a subsequent reference made by the Anti-Corruption Lokpal to the Supreme Court of India, a full bench of the Supreme Court has examined the evidence and concurred with the National Anti-Corruption Lokpal. This, the draft bill feels, will protect the PM from false investigations. Further, the bills suggests that after receiving a concurrence of the Supreme Court no investigation should be launched till a notice has been served to the ruling party or coalition that the Anti-Corruption Lokpal proposes to conduct an investigation after 15 days are given to them to make alternative arrangements, if they so wish. However, the draft proposes, during this period the Anti-Corruption Lokpal shall be authorised to safeguard evidence and witnesses, as it would once the investigation starts. The NCPRI version of the Lokpal bill is based on a slew of measures involving multiple institutions rather than one institution for doing everything for everyone. It adopts a two-pronged approach to cover not just complaints under the Prevention of Corruption Act, but also to take cognisance of complaints relating to violations under Chapter IX of the IPC, prevention of money laundering, and other legal instruments that the government may notify from time to time. The bills seeks to address issues of corruption through three parallel Lokpals – the national anti-corruption Lokpal, a stronger Central VigilanceCommission or the Kendriya Satarkta Lokpal, and a stronger Judicial Accountability and Standards Bill or the Nyay Palika Lokpal. On the issue of the investigations against the Prime Minister, the draft bill suggests that the Anti-Corruption Lokpal should not investigate on his role in matters relating to intelligence and security. This suggestion follows arguments since the Prime Minister deals with several sensitive matters, especially those relating to intelligence and security matters, it would be best to keep him out of the purview of the Anti-Corruption Lokpal. The draft bill also suggests that on complaints regarding actions done by others where the Prime Minister is not directly involved but can be held responsible as the head of the government or cabinet should not be entertained. The draft also seeks for creation of a National Law for Public Grievances Redressal for grievances and to back it all up with a strong Whistleblower Protection Bill or the Lokrakshak Kanoon for safeguarding the interests of those who bring issues of corruption to the limelight.