Ram Madhav
December 25, 2011

No Reservations in Lokpal Please! Let one Act be for All Indians

It is clear now. Nobody wants the Lokpal Bill to be passed in Parliament. The ruling party has always betrayed unease at the prospect of a strong Lokpal for reasons not difficult to fathom. The Opposition, although seemed committed to the idea of an institutional mechanism to combat institutionalised corruption, is apprehensive of the motives of the Government.

Some stakeholders have problems with the haste in passing it – wanting it to be passed in just three days; others have problems with certain sleight of hand tactics of the ruling party like the introduction of religion-based reservations through backdoor. Team Anna meanwhile has its own concerns, the primary one being their belief in the finality of their own wisdom which the Government draft wishes to negate.

Passage of the Bill using the characteristic brute power by the Government may do double damage – it will take  the wind out of the issue while at the same time render the entire 8-month old movement redundant. The Left parties have a point when they question the tearing haste with which the Bill is sought to be passed. Such an important legislation should have been discussed sufficiently before it is passed.

But the Government has no time. Anna’s threat of another fast and another nationwide movement looms over the Government. It can’t risk this at a time when it is heading for crucial elections in the coming months. However, Gurudas Dasgupta’s comment that ‘the Government is scared of an ex-bureaucrat, an ex-cop and someone who pretends to be the modern-day Mahatma’ is quite uncharitable.

He should instead have questioned the motives of the Government for bringing this Bill before the House at the fag end of the Winter Session. There can’t be any justification for this delay. This is the simple and age-old technique of procrastination that all governments follow with legislations that they don’t really want to pass. That the leaders of the Government were never interested in this Bill became obvious on several occasions in the last few months.

Their handling of anti-corruption movements, be it led by Anna or Ramdeo, clearly betrayed their utter antipathy to the idea of Lokpal. It got reinforced by their farcical negotiations with Team Anna. Team Anna had to finally walk out of the negotiation room realising that the Government is just not interested.

Naturally for the Government all that is needed is an excuse to not pass the Bill. The way it was drafted and the craftiness with which the irrelevant issue of Minority reservations got tagged to it bares the real intentions of the Government. Senior and respected Minister Pranab Mukharjee tried a trick in the Parliament when he insisted that the question of Minority reservations as part of Lokpal Bill is a question of Legislative competence of the House.

This is an utterly fraudulent argument. Firstly, the Lokpal is not an institution for empowerment. It is an institution for eradicating corruption. What we needed were provisions to pick up people with enough profile to tackle corruption irrespective of caste, creed, language, sex or religion. All these considerations are necessary only when we promulgate laws for affirmative action. In that sense Pranabda’s argument of Legislative competence is misleading.

Secondly it is a wise trap in which it appeared that even the Opposition had initially walked into. The line of argument of some Members of the Opposition that the courts will reject such legislation indicates this amply. What needs to be made clear is that the question is not whether the courts will uphold the provision or not; the question is whether the Constitution permits such a legislation to be passed. In that sense the Legislature is not competent to promulgate or pass any Law that goes against the Constitution.

Reservations based on religion have no sanction in our Constitution. Enough discussion took place on this subject in the Constituent Assembly and a decision was taken to extend reservations only to the Scheduled Castes and Tribes. The courts too have reminded this aspect to the governments several times before. The courts have additionally stipulated that reservations shouldn’t exceed 49% in any given situation. Yet for the Government to propose that there will be a 50% reservation for SC, ST, OBC, women and minorities in Lokpal appointments is sheer audacity.

As opined rightly by the BJP, this is an attempt to bring in minority reservations by the back door. This unconstitutional act must be resisted. Unabashed Minorityism has taken a heavy toll on our national unity and integrity. It can’t be allowed to continue for narrow political gains. It doesn’t help the minorities either. They better realise it.

Some parties, especially the Congress, have the habit of flaunting this Minority card every time they are in trouble or they need some electoral dividends. Before the previous round of State elections they raised the false bogey of Ranganath Mishra Commission report and made promises to the minorities. Elections were over and everybody forgot about it. Just before the last General Election they again raised the issue of Sachar Committee Report. Lot of din followed.

Elections were over and the Government forgot about it. Now since the ruling party is in trouble they started this cacophony about minority reservations again. Even the proposed Communal and Targeted Violence Bill is a desperate act to mislead the gullible sections of the minority community. Let the members of those communities realise this game of the Congress party and its allies. Let the Government also be clear that the country won’t tolerate such politics anymore.

The larger question to be asked at least now is that can’t we think of Indians even once to pass a legislation like Lokpal which wants to tackle the humongous problem of corruption that affects every citizen of our country irrespective of whether he is a Hindu or a Muslim or a Christian; or whether he is a Brahmin or a Thakur or a Baniya or a Harijan? If we make caste, religion or sex a criterion for selection in Lokpal committee we are falsifying the very constitution of it and creating divisions at the very inception level itself. How can then the committee be expected to be impartial? The very logic of selection through sectional representation will lead to protection of sectional interests. And that will be the nemesis of the Lokpal.

(Views expressed here are my own)

Published by Ram Madhav

Member, Board of Governors, India Foundation

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