Civil Society says UPA doing flip-flop on inclusion of PM under Lokpal

The Civil Society leaders under Anna Hazare attacked the government’s latest position that the Prime Minister should not be included under the scope of the anti-corruption ombudsman, the Lokpal.

“Under the Indian constitution, only the President of India enjoys an exemption from prosecution.. If you want to take him out, you will have to amend the Constitution, the Prevention of Terrorist Act etc.,” pointed out Arvind Kejriwal.

He pointed out that a very sensitive position like the Prime Minister’s has to be held up to the highest standards of integrity and scrutiny, otherwise corruption can threaten the entire country.

“If you give him total immunity, it will become a threat to the integrity of the country,” he pointed out.

Civil Society leaders accused the UPA of doing a U-turn on its own previous positions on inclusion of the PM under the scope of the bill.

“In 2003, Pranab Mukherjee was the chairperson of the standing committee of the Parliament.. He had recommended that PM should be included and then PM Vajpayee expressed his willingness,” Kejriwal said.

Kerjriwal also pointed out that even the UPA’s draft of the Lokpal bill, drawn up by Law minister Veerappa Moily earlier this year, had included the Prime Minister in its scope. Even the Home Minister P Chidambaram had scribbled his approval on the draft to the entire arrangement, he pointed out.

“The current scenario is that only CBI [under the PM] could investigate him… Why is the PM afraid of being investigated by an independent body like the Lokpal? What has happened in the last two months that the government has now reversed it position,” he pointed out.

Fellow civil society leader and noted lawyer Prashant Bhushan also attacked the government for its position that since it is a democratically elected government, it has a monopoly over representation of the people’s will.

“Why can’t you televise the proceedings? Pranab Mukherjee says it will become a circus. Is the Indian parliament a circus,” Bhushan said. “Don’t the people have a right to know why the Government wants to keep the PM out of the bill,” he added.

Bhushan also pointed out that all such discussions are televised in countries like the US, which has a history of democracy many times longer than India.

“Only those people who have questionable intentions and guilty feelings have a problem with being seen what they are doing.. Only if you feel that you are doing something wrong will you object to being shown as doing it,” he added.

He pointed out that the government seems to have a warped notion of its powers and those of the people and other organizations such as theirs. “It seems to believe that just because the people elected them a few years ago, they have an unlimited power to do what they want.. rule however they want,” he said.

If the government feels that the people don’t want to keep the Prime Minister or the Judges within the scope of investigation of a future Lokpal, they are free to hold a referendum on the issue, Bhushan added. He also pointed out that the PM seemed to have no problems with being under the watchful gaze of a Lokpal, but only the ministers seemed to have inhibitions.

Meanwhile, the opposition BJP mocked the stand of the Congress party on the top. Spokesperson Rajiv Pratap Rudy pointed out that India’s prime minister Manmohan Singh has a reputation for being very honest. “It is only fair that the Prime Minister be allowed to give his opinion on this,” he said, urging the PM to speak his mind on this topic.