The Lokpal Bill will be a damp squib and that is a known fact. The government however thinks that this the best that could have come out but the members of the drafting panel feel that the people of India have been given a raw deal.
There were many things that went through during the various meetings the two sides had and surprisingly enough, Justice Santhosh Hegde, the Lokayukta of Karnataka who was one of the members of the panel says, “ I have no doubt, but the government’s draft of the bill was ready well in advance, infact before the deliberations began. In this interview with rediff.com, Justice Hegde also goes on to say that there was never a difference of opinion within his panel and also adds the government too was always united since they always got their directions from one command.
Sir, what exactly went wrong? There was a lot of promise that we would have a good Lokpal bill.
Today when I look back, I feel that the government never wanted this bill to be what it should be. The initial few meetings started off on a cordial note and we all thought that they were serious about implementing a strong and good bill. However now what I realise is that they always had a pre-conceived notion about what the Bill was going to be and also how they wanted it to be.
There was a difference of opinion in the government panel and also yours. The media is abuzz with this talk. Is this true?
Difference of opinion in the government? That sounds like a joke. They were always together on this and were very prepared at all times. I would have to say that our panel had an open mind. There were differences when we used to meet before the actual meeting. Now that is democratic in nature. Give me one instance when any of our panel members have come out and spoke out against each other. Never have we ever done that which only shows that we were united.
Take us through the meetings.
We went into all these meetings with an open mind. All of us were very optimistic about this as we all wanted a good bill. Considering that this was a meeting, we did think that we could also put forth our views and also argue if we thought that something was wrong. Everything was cordial at first and as the meetings progressed they began to talk tough. This came as quite a surprise because the same people from being polite went on to talk very hard with us.
All of you are very experienced people. How did you let the government bully you?
Look, as I said they were polite at first. They spoke about procedure also. Yes in the meetings when we wanted to discuss the contentious issues, we were given an impression that it would be done during the later meetings. However only after a couple of meetings did we realise that there was no way in which we could argue with them because they never had an open mind. It was at this point of time that we realised that they were never interested in a Lok Pal bill.
The government always gave the people the impression that the two committees were in agreement.
Yes that is correct. They did come out and say that 50 per cent of the issues were agreed upon. That is correct. But these are issues that hardly matter and what you would see in the final bill too. There are other contentious issues which all of you know about which needed to find a mention in the final bill. This is where the disagreement began.
You said earlier they had a pre-conceived notion. What do you mean by that?
The government said that 50 per cent of the issues were agreed upon. The balance was the important aspect to the bill which they just refused to discuss. You may not believe it, but we are now convinced that the draft of the bill was ready well before the meetings started. We realised this when the draft was given to us. Some issues that were never discussed in the meetings were part of that draft. Now this raises a suspicion. How can issues that are never discussed form part of the draft. Don’t you think when there is a discussion between two parties both parties have the right to know what has to be included and what does not? We had suggested that the Prime Minister, the leader of opposition, two Supreme Court judges and the CAG be part of the selection committee for the Lokpal. At that point of time they said that we must include the chairpersons of both Houses as members of the selection committee. We accepted it. However in the draft we got to see that they had introduced only politicians and bureaucrats into this panel apart from two other judges. Now this was not something that was discussed. How did this find a mention in the draft?
Other the issue of the Prime Minister what was the biggest difference between the government and you?
There is this provision which states that an accused be given an opportunity before a chargesheet is filed. Now that defies criminal jurisprudence in totality. If when the charges are being framed an accused has the right to approach the court and seek quashing of the charges against him. Why should an investigating officer give that right to the accused?
Are you sure that your team stood united at all times?
Yes I can vouch for that. There was never any issues between us. Yes in our meetings there were differences. But that is normal. When we went before the government’s panel we had just one view. In the private meetings we have had our differences but that is democratic Difference of opinion is only if u come out publicly and speak about it.
There is talk that you had a problem with Anna Hazare.
This government can go to any extent to create things. Yes I had written an letter to Anna Hazare. All I said was instead of sitting on a hunger strike, it would be better if you went to different parts of the country. Why make the people come to the place where you are fasting, instead you go to the people I had written to him. Now would you call this a difference of opinion or a problem? This is just a suggestion and the two of us have no problems.
Was the government united?
They can never have a difference of opinion because their command comes from one place. They can never go against their command and hence everything is pretty much decided well in advance.
When do you plan to give us recordings of the meetings?
I have asked for it. Those tapes have to come out in order to expose the government. We have asked for it and the finance minister has said that he will decide on it. We are on the job.