Pass the Lok Pal Bill already!

In the past few months, most Indians on Facebook and other social networks would have seen some mention of the Lokpal Bill and Anna Hazare. I have discussed this issue with several of my friends and thought I’d summarize my thoughts and spam my friends’ Facebook feed as well :)

I support Anna Hazare. For most part, I support his version of the Lok Pal. I would like a few minor changes (that I am not mentioning here). If I were a Member of Parliament, the absence of these changes would not stop me from voting Team Anna’s version. The bill, as I understand it, aims to establish an investigative agency called the Lok Pal that is independent of the Central Government and focuses on public corruption charges. I view the Lok Pal as a combination of the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).

  • The CVC is autonomous, but is not an investigative agency.
  • The CBI is not autonomous, but it is an investigative agency.
  • The Lok Pal would be an autonomous investigative agency.

India needs such an agency. I support the bill.

I am going to use this post to mainly address various arguments I have heard against the bill.

Arguments against the content of the bill

The bill is draconian. No! The rights guaranteed by the Constitution of India still hold. It is finally up to the judiciary to decide who should be punished and how. The Supreme Court of India gets ultimate say.

The bill is unconstitutional. I am yet to see anyone specify a particular section or principle of the Constitution that this bill would violate. What I have read are various arguments that this bill somehow violates the balance of power envisioned in the Constitution. I don’t see how and I’ll wait for the Supreme Court to rule it Ultra Vires if that is the case. The Indian Government has not argued that the bill is unconstitutional. It has merely argued that the bill is bad policy. To be honest though, the Indian Government has not made any argument. They should have televised the proceedings of the drafting committee meeting.

The way to fight corruption is by making government smaller. The bill and this argument do not contract each other. You can make government smaller and at the same time have an investigative agency. Investigation and law enforcement are functions that can be performed only the state. Remember what the SEC and other US federal agencies failed to do before the financial meltdown in 2008.

The bill’s language is kooky. I agree. This is a minor detail that is not a point of contention between the government and Anna Hazare and can be fixed.

The bill won’t work. No comment. We’ll have to wait and see.

Arguments against the method of protest employed by Team Anna

Team Anna behaves as though they are Parliament. Of course, not! It is finally up to Parliament to pass any bill into law. Team Anna is just like any other group lobbying the government. They are lobbying the administration and Parliament publicly and seem to be quite successful!

Unrelated to this issue, but I can’t help pointing these out. 1) I find it ironic that some Parliamentarians talking about the prerogatives of their institution conveniently forget that they did not meet even a single day during last year’s monsoon session. 2) A few years ago Parliament was dealing with how to respond to Greg Chappel.

Every person has the right to speak. Every person has the right to petition Parliament. Every person has the right to protest. Every person has the right to go on a hunger strike, a time-honored Indian tradition of non-violent protest.

Team Anna is blackmailing Parliament into acting in haste. Karan Thapar made this argument on his show. I find this argument similar to what Republicans made against Obamacare a month before it passed. Healthcare reform was first proposed (and defeated) during the Clinton days. It was discussed for a whole year after Obama got elected and yet the Republicans kept asking for a fresh start.

Lok Pal Bills have been introduced eight times in Parliament. Several Parliamentary Standing Committees have issued reports on various bills. This current iteration has lasted more than 8 months. MPs have had enough time to consult experts and their constituents. (I have not heard of any MP claim that their constituents oppose Anna Hazare’s version of the bill.) At what point is it okay for a citizen say, “Enough is enough?”

Ad homimen attacks

Anna Hazare is a frontman for the RSS and Hindu-fundamentalists. Arundathi Roy makes this claim. I don’t even know if this argument has any basis in reality. It sounds like the “Obama is a Muslim” attacks. Firstly, there is no evidence to support the claim. Secondly, what if it were true? How would it matter?

Middle-class folks who support the bill are themselves corrupt and have paid a bribe at some point in their lives. Does one really think that folks like paying bribes? Even so, shouldn’t someone not aspire for what they think will lead to a fairer system and society?

This is a media spectacle/conspiracy. Duh.

About these ads

10 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by karu on August 24, 2011 at 5:48 am

    I will rebut your points in detail later. But the most important is the govt. is well within its rights to let this idiot “fast” and die in his so-called “fast” unto death. BTW, I don’t for a moment believe this guy is actually fasting.

    on a more humorous note on his methods; its actually hilarious, seeing this fool surrounded by an army of doctors, loud-speakers, and the general party atmosphere…and then he’s claiming he his fasting.

    And something for you to think about;

    1) What should govt. do if now somebody else goes on a counter-fast against tabling the bill? I am sure 100000 partiers (I mean protestors) can be bussed in for that counter-fast!
    2) Hazare’s demands have changed from “table” the bill to “pass” the bill.
    3) Do you honestly believe he is going to stop with this? he has already threatened he’s working on his next weight-loss DVD and the theme-song for that DVD is going to be based on land-reform.

    Reply

    • 1) What should govt. do if now somebody else goes on a counter-fast against tabling the bill? I am sure 100000 partiers (I mean protestors) can be bussed in for that counter-fast!

      The government is free to do what it wants. And protesters are free to voice their protest. I thought that is what democracy is about. I assume the government cares how it spends its political capital.

      3) Do you honestly believe he is going to stop with this? he has already threatened he’s working on his next weight-loss DVD and the theme-song for that DVD is going to be based on land-reform.

      Why does he have to stop? If I like his cause, I will support him. If I don’t like it, I won’t. The same is the case with every one else. And what is the weight loss DVD? Did I miss something?

      Reply

  2. Posted by karu on August 24, 2011 at 8:02 am

    I would also like to hear your thoughts on what the govt should do wrt Irom Sharmila fast? Since you claim death-threat based blackmail is how a Democratic govt. should work! http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/columns/Kalpana_Sharma/article2372648.ece

    Reply

  3. Posted by karu on August 24, 2011 at 6:13 pm

    Here is my rebuttal. I’ll leave out responding to your 2nd and 3rd
    section on the methods, after I read your response on what the
    govt. should do, should say P. Sainath or Arundhati Roy goes on a
    counter-fast against tabling the bill?

    Further, you seem slightly misinformed. Hazare is fasting for
    “passing” the bill, not “tabling” the bill.

    Regarding the first section;

    First and foremost, the changes required are not minor – you are
    trivializing.

    1) The bill is draconian. No! The rights guaranteed by the
    Constitution of India still hold. It is finally up to the judiciary to
    decide who should be punished and how. The Supreme Court of India gets
    ultimate say.

    Response: The bill provides the Lokpal with power to order
    disciplinary proceedings against any government servant. Anybody who
    works in any government office can be suspended by the Lokpal. They
    will have to go to court to prove their innocence in a court of
    law. Note here: the burden is on PROVING innocence, not the other way
    round. So your statement “It is finally up to the judiciary to decide
    who should be punished and how.” is ABSOLUTELY false. Sorry for
    shouting now.

    And related to its draconian nature, the Lokpal has the power to
    intiate proceedings against anybody. Hazare can randomly decide
    he’s going to pursue a Lokpal investigation of some bank employee
    tomorrow – because he made Hazare wait in line, or he didn’t bow and
    touch Hazare’s feet.

    It is NOT an investigative agency. It is investigation, prosecution,
    and executive all rolled in one.

    2) The bill is unconstitutional. I am yet to see anyone specify a
    particular section or principle of the Constitution that this bill
    would violate. What I have read are various arguments that this bill
    somehow violates the balance of power envisioned in the
    Constitution. I don’t see how and I’ll wait for the Supreme Court
    to rule it Ultra Vires if that is the case. The Indian Government has
    not argued that the bill is unconstitutional. It has merely argued
    that the bill is bad policy. To be honest though, the Indian
    Government has not made any argument. They should have televised the
    proceedings of the drafting committee meeting.

    Response: I am told by experts that the demand of including judiciary
    within the scope of Lokpal will be found unconstitutional.

    The absence of any checks on its power, make its unconstitutional in
    spirit – I think thats what people mean. BTW, you might want to read
    up on the Basij in Iran….Lokpal is India’s Basij.

    3) The way to fight corruption is by making government smaller. The
    bill and this argument do not contract each other. You can make
    government smaller and at the same time have an investigative
    agency. Investigation and law enforcement are functions that can be
    performed only the state. Remember what the SEC and other US federal
    agencies failed to do before the financial meltdown in 2008.

    Response: Because of point one and (4) below, this bill is a step
    back. Yeah in spirit what you said is true – but this bill has too
    many flaws and no positives. And yeah, everything is like everything
    else…see for example my above comparison to Basij. So making
    arbitrary comparison are not useful.

    4) The bill’s language is kooky. I agree. This is a minor detail that
    is not a point of contention between the government and Anna Hazare
    and can be fixed.

    Response: Are you serious? Really, are you serious? Do you think this
    weight-loss guru is going to agree to any change? He has said, pass it
    and is holding a gun to his head! I think you are being naive or
    disingenous here.

    5) The bill won’t work. No comment. We’ll have to wait and see.

    Response: Well – there are numerous lessons in history. Unchecked
    power has never worked. What is the point in doing a bad experiment
    with has had a bad result every other time.

    What if I go on fast tomorrow, and say lets form a ShitPal. In the
    ShitPal, every day one person from every one square-KM block, will
    take his shit or his pet’s and throw it on someone he suspects of
    corruption. This will solve the problem – since no-one likes
    shit. Lets try this out. We’ll wait and see how it works.

    6) Team Anna behaves as though they are Parliament….hunger-strike is
    non-violent.

    Response: I take strong objection. Hunger strike is absolutele
    violent. It is a death-threat.

    And my own other points;

    Its suggestions for composition of the Lokpal is beyond ludicrous. As
    a personal example and with no offense to anyone. Do you want Djikstra
    or Emerson to be on a Lokpal? Do you think they are qualified to judge
    anything about corruption? Of course, none of us would even think
    of V.S.Naipul on the Lokpal.

    It has some other nonsense about Lokayukta which is against state
    federalism. I don’t understand this completely yet.

    Reply

    • > 1.The bill provides the Lokpal with power to order
      disciplinary proceedings against any government servant.

      I read the entire draft of the bill. Punishments have to go through a court. The only area where Lok Pal has any powers is when someone refuses to respond to an investigation. This is similar to any investigation agency’s subpoena. If FBI subpoenas you (or CBI summons you), you cannot refuse to go meet them. Of course, invoking the 5th Amendment right to remain silent (in the US), or Article 20 (3) of Indian Constitution “No person accused of any offence shall be compelled
      to be a witness against himself” is a valid response.

      > I take strong objection. Hunger strike is absolutely violent. It is a death-threat.

      I disagree. I view hunger strike as one’s right to speech and expression protected by the Constitution of India. Mahatma Gandhi was well known for his non-violent methods and employed hunger strikes. Other great non-violent leaders such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela, and Cesar Chavez claim to be influenced by Gandhi. Cesar Chavez himself has employed hunger strikes. You might not agree, but I will cite the authority of these famous names to support my strong belief that hunger strike is a non-violent expression of speech and expression.

      Reply

  4. Posted by karu on August 24, 2011 at 9:56 pm

    BTW, you should also look at the criticism emanating from the non-Hindu and lower caste sections. Its growing. Whether you want to dismiss it all as frivolous or not, I encourage to get out of your bubble and the 8-year, 8-year bandwagon. I feel you are letting your emotions overcome your rationality. For e.g. some legitimate Dalit issues have come up, which I was not aware of.

    http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/lead/article2384849.ece?homepage=true

    The Commissioner for Scheduled Castes reported about 11,469 complaints by Dalit government employees during the period from 2004 to 2010 that were linked to caste prejudice. Several thousand more complaints under the provisions of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, such as giving “false or frivolous information to any public servant and thereby cause such public servant to use his lawful power to the injury or annoyance of member of SC/ST” are waiting for justice. Therefore, Dalits have begun to seek safeguards against the complaints emanating from caste prejudices in the Lokpal Bill. I think the government has rightly brought the bill for an open discussion before the Standing Committee that comprises MPs from all parties, so that the Bill is discussed by all sections in a peaceful milieu and not under duress and force.

    Reply

    • You understand that I can go today and make a complaint (false or true) with appropriate authorities and law-enforcement about a Dalit government employee, right? If the complaint is true, the person would be punished. If not, I would be punished for making a false complaint and also under the Prevention of Atrocities Act. I don’t know how the Lok Pal changes anything.

      You seem to suggest that the Lok Pal seems to have more powers than already available to law-enforcement and investigative agencies. That is not the case. The only difference between the Lok Pal and current agencies is that of autonomy.

      Reply

  5. Posted by karu on August 31, 2011 at 9:47 am

    I read your responses. I don’t think you are interested in a real debate or discussion. If you are let me know, I will respond to your response.

    BTW, you have piecemeal responded to 1 of 6. I don’t know if that implictly that means the other 5 of 6 you dismiss!

    And regarding the dalit issue – I recommed you go re-read what I wrote, read the Hindu article and think again the point I am making. The point is the Lokpal folks have been brazenly and predominantly Hindu and non-Dalits. Thus those in the minority group have a legitimate cause for concern. Here’s an algorithm you can try to follow and perhaps you will see my point.

    Lokpal can initiate proceedings without a complaint – do you agree with this or not?
    if yes {
    this minority concern is essentially about harrasment; key problem is initiate proceedings without complaint. here for example is harrasment monsanto does against US farmers…yes they have recourse to justice; but often they practically don’t.

    http://www.i-sis.org.uk/MonsantovsFarmers.php

    } else {
    go re-read the lokpal bill
    }

    And also run this second algorithm;

    Do believe India has cast prejudice problem;
    if yes {
    lets continue the discussion
    } else {
    lets just stop the discussion. we are operating on different “facts”
    }

    And finally, on this vein, I assume you find nothing wrong with the Arizona immigration law?

    And just so you know, Hazare did an amazing thing by addressing this concern. He broke his fast by taking sweets from a Muslim and Dalit. Yep – that addresses this concern. Yes – I am being sarcastic.

    Reply

  6. Posted by karu on August 31, 2011 at 9:50 am

    And here is the proof for why Lokpal is a super-police! Bhushan just proved it with this quote!

    Mr Bhushan, speaking to NDTV said, “I will file a petition in the Supreme Court for an independent probe into the CD issue. It is a politically motivated case. Had there been a Lokpal, all these Police officers involved in the probe would have been punished.”

    What has this CD investigation got anything to do with corrptuption? Why should this come under scope of Lokpal?

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

%d bloggers like this: