Debate on The Lokpal and Lokayukta Bill

Transcript of the speech made by Mr H K Dua, MP, Rajya Sabha during the debate on The Lokpal and Lokayukta Bill in the Rajya Sabha on December 29, 2011.

Let’s pass the Lokpal Bill, please

Shri H.K. Dua (Nominated): Thank you, Mr Chairman. I rise to support the Bill. I would like to compliment Dr. Abhishek Manu Singhvi not only for the brilliance of his speech, but also for the way he led the Standing Committee, whose report is the basis of this Bill. It was a marvellous job done, and, even those who have given dissenting notes – there are quite a few – have complimented his effort.

I think he took it as a mission, and, one reason could be that the first time, it was his father, Dr L M Singhvi, — whom I had the fortune of meeting in Parliament precincts as a young correspondent – who proposed to Jawaharlal Nehru that there should be an ‘ombudsman’ in India,

“What is this animal called, ‘ombudsman”’? asked Jawaharlal Nehru. Dr Singhvi coined a  very nice, simple word, ‘Lokpal”, which is much simpler word than ombudsman can be, and it is with the spirit of the times. But neither Dr L M Singhvi, nor Jawaharlal Nehru, knew that this would lead, over four and a half decades later, into a lot of tumult and controversy in India and in Indian Parliament.

Nevertheless, I am very happy that after considering the Standing Committee’s report, the Government has come out with the Bill, which personally, I think, is a good beginning in the exercise to eradicate corruption from the body politic. I hope, Sir, that this House endorses the decision of the Lok Sabha to pass the Bill. Not passing the Bill will send a wrong signal to the people of India that Parliament has again shirked its duty in passing the Bill. There has been a delay of over four decades. This itself is an argument for passing the Bill now rather than delaying it further.

Sir, the question of federalism has been raised in this House. I am quite surprised about it, but I understand the reasons behind it. They think that Parliament is encroaching upon the rights of the States, which may not be true. Corruption, on one side, we are told, is a national question. The remedies also have to be national. And, if national remedies have to be there, you cannot exclude the States. There can be instances when the Centre would like to trip on the right of the States, but this is not that instance.

Federalism, as the Prime Minister has said, is not an impediment. There can be other reasons. However, an impression should not go to the people that the States are avoiding fighting  against corruption. The States and  their parties should help the passage of this Bill lest it leads to a wrong impression.

The Bill has one clause about which I have a reservation, although it is not that I would like to bring forward an amendment at this time to send it back to the Lok Sabha. The clause seeks to bring the Prime Minister under the purview of the Lokpal.  Now, you cannot have a situation when authority of the office of the Prime minister is compromised, or, his hands are tied. It is odd you want strong Lokpal Bill and a weak Prime Minister! I think, that cannot be a very durable situation for a long time.

Now, this Bill has come before Parliament in a strange kind of circumstances when the so-called civil society has tried to put pressure on Parliament of India and its sovereign rights to pass legislation. Attempts were made to decide the law at Ramlila Ground, at Jantar Mantar, and , later at the MMRDA ground in Mumbai. It was presented as an opinion of the entire people of India.

We also heard some arrogant noises from the stage at Ramlila Ground and Jantar Mantar. Take the entire country and its history. We have seen the Governments or the rulers having the tendency to become arrogant, but I have never seen NGOs becoming arrogant.  See the kind of language that was used, ‘Anna is India’! Another civil society leader said in an interview on television, ‘Anna is above Parliament”. All of us have seen that. I can’t see a more arrogant posture of a set of NGO leaders claiming that they represent the entire people of India. They don’t know that they do not even represent the entire  civil society.

Somehow, they come to presume that they are the only honest people, and, there are no other honest people. I thought, there are more honest people in the country than the NGO leaders presume there are.  Otherwise, I think, the case of their monopolizing the honesty and standards of integrity should be referred to a Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices Commission.

Mr Chairman, Sir, can you allow the laws to be passed at Ramlila Ground, at Jantar Mantar Road or anywhere else by the civil society groups who have arrogated to themselves to proclaim that they are the people? And they say they are the ‘Jan Parliament’. That was the word used only four days ago, immediately on the eve of the Mumbai fast which has been aborted rightly so, because nobody wants Anna Hazare to give away his life.

Sir, He is not the only person who would like to give  his life for the country. There are millions of people who would like to give their life for the country’s sake. Patriotism is also not anybody’s monopoly. There are more people who would line up for giving their life to serve a national cause. Tomorrow another group can come to Ramlila Ground – and that worries me more – and say, “Well, we represent the people of India. You should abolish Parliament, Judiciary or Executive and we will pass the law”.

The Maoists can leave Chattisgarh jungles and Jharkhand and come to Ramlila Ground. No army is going to shoot at them. Right to peaceful protest is there, but the danger is there. Don’t give the right to odd groups outside to pass laws.

Sir, I am very happy, Parliament of India has taken the right step to discuss this Bill, and the level of the debate in both the Houses has been very good. We should not disappoint the people of India by not passing the Lokpal Bill today.

MR CHAIRMAN; Kindly conclude.

Shri H K Dua: Sir, I will just conclude in one minute. In the Constituent Assembly, Dr B R Ambedkar visualized this danger that there could be groups who will decide what laws should be there for the people of this vast country. They would like to decide it, and that will be a danger to the kind of parliamentary democracy we have adopted. I am glad we adopted Parliamentary democracy; but we should not fritter it away after 64 years. Sir, I would quote from the Dr B R Ambedkar’s speech: I quote:

“If we wish to maintain democracy, not merely in form but also in fact, what must we do?  The first thing in my judgement we must do is to hold fast to constitutional method of achieving our social and economic objectives. It means we must abandon the bloody methods of revolution. It means that we must abandon the method of civil disobedience, non-cooperation and satyagraha.”

Possibly, the civil disobedience was okay before Independence, but not afterwards when we have our own Constitution. We are not fighting against foreign rulers.

I will quote DR Ambedkar again: “When there was no way left or constitutional methods for achieving economic and social objectives, there was a great deal of justification for unconstitutional methods. But where constitutional methods are open, there can be no justification for these unconstitutional methods. These methods are nothing but the Grammar of Anarchy, and the sooner they are abandoned, the better for us.“ (quote ends).

Sir, by passing the Lokpal Bill on our own, and with grace and possibly with unanimity, I think, we will be sending the right message to those who want to create anarchy in the country.

Thank you, Mr Chairman.

The nation is losing confidence in itself

Sixty four years ago this week, India stepped into freedom and began looking straight into the eyes of the world.

Free India was not born without pain. Millions of refugees crossed both ways what came to be the border between India and what became Pakistan. Settling the refugees was a massive task. Stopping communal rioting was another.

A sudden challenge thrust on India was an immediate war on  Kashmir. The issue would absorb the energies of  the two nations for decades and still defies a solution.

The new rulers of India had decades of record fighting  freedom struggle of its own kind, but little experience of running the nation of India’s size and diversities of various nature –- of religion, languages, regions, and of castes and of abysmal poverty. All these could spawn  a million mutinies that  that V.S. Naipal came to fear even years later.  Sceptics like him were to write about “dangerous decades.”

The problems staring these rulers that represented various streams of thought that permeated the freedom movement were indeed enormous, and hugely daunting.

Yet, these leaders were not overawed, nor were the people. Hope was in the air; the rulers and the led looked into the future with confidence in their capability to build a new India that could find a respectable place for itself in the world and be counted.

It could be done in many ways and  in times of a big transition like the one from slavery to freedom, the rulers could easily choose short cuts. But led by Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Patel,  Maulana Azad, B.R Ambedkar, and a galaxy of other leaders,  they opted for parliamentary democracy and much to the surprise of the developed countries thought of giving the right to vote to every Indian, rich or  poor, educated or otherwise, living in cities or in villages, man or a woman.

When they were facing formidable challenges, they thought of giving the country a constitution, a parliament elected on the basis of universal adult franchise, an executive responsive to the needs of the people, and an independent judiciary to give justice to them;  fundamental rights to all Indians, freedom of expression, a plural and a secular society, and much else that could make India a modern nation state where the people  could live a life of dignity denied to them under the colonial raj.

That was an India full of hope and confidence, soon after Independence,  dreaming big, despite the inheritance of lost centuries and burden of poverty, illiteracy and past prejudices and all they entail.

Over six decades later, India has come to be regarded as a major emerging power of the 21st century—political, economic and nuclear, with one of the largest armies of the world and a large stock of skilled manpower.

Despite these accomplishments which the rest of the world admires, the nation’s confidence is low however. Self-confidence has given place to doubt, hope to despair. As a nation we have stopped looking into the future, mired as we are with the pettiness of the times. So caught the people are with the present, that they have practically forgotten the task of building a 21st century India.

Actually, the state of a nation’s morale depends on the functioning of its institutions. The current agonizing times the country is passing through are mainly because the health of these institutions is fast declining.

Parliament is semi-paralysed functioning spasmodically. Chunk of the bureaucracy across the land, is mixed up with politicians on one side and businessmen and property developers on the other; the judiciary has lately begun stirring at the apex level, but the people at large no longer regard the kachehri in the states and the districts with the hope that they will get justice from them and certainly in time.

The big business which claims credit for over eight per cent of growth has been found wanting as brought out by Radia tapes. A section of the media – supposed to be a watchdog of the institutions –-  has also been found going astray from the values that should have guided it in its pursuit. And look at the Army generals: two of them who after retirement chose to book flats in Coloba, built ostensibly for widows of those who gave their lives for the nation in Kargil.

Corruption and misuse of power has certainly corroded most institutions in varying degrees and no political party across the land is innocent of it.

What is needed is serious attempts to strengthen these institutions and not wreck them  from within. The nation cannot afford extra-constitutional authorities  or approaches. Reforms, backed by a consensus and political will can serve the purpose.

The setting up of a Lok Pal as approved by Parliament is fairly certain after the bill has gone through a select committee, but a Lok Pal cannot eliminate all corruption which has spread far and deep into the body politic with all its ruinous consequences.

What is absolutely needed is to tackle corruption at its roots is bold electoral reforms aimed at reducing the role of big money and criminals in politics. Political parties are reluctant to go in for these. They are just wasting the nation’s time in acrimony and blame game.

Preoccupation with the immediate issues of concern is natural in a vibrant democracy, but the nation should have the ability to tackle these fast and not  allow itself to get bogged down in the mire that can drain all its energy, making  difficult for it to get up and avail itself of new opportunities. Time and future don’t wait for a nation to rise on its feet and catch up with the rest of the world.

– Daily Post, August 15th, 2011