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Santosh Hegde: In Sept 2010, parliament cleared 17 bills in 12 minutes, one of them was to dilute the Prevention of Corruption Act

Santosh Hegde: In Sept 2010, parliament cleared 17 bills in 12 minutes, one of them was to dilute the Prevention of Corruption Act

Author: Vinita Deshmukh
Publication: Moneylife.in
Date: August 30, 2011
URL: http://www.moneylife.in/article/santosh-hegde-in-sept-2010-parliament-cleared-17-bills-in-12-minutes-one-of-them-was-to-dilute-the-prevention-of-corruption-act/19340.html

The former SC judge says Team Anna had no intention of taking the government head-on over the Lokpal issue, but it was compelled to do so because of its stubborn claim of 'parliamentary supremacy'. Justice Hegde who was a key member of the joint drafting committee, has urged people to continue the fight for the proper use of the country's wealth and resources

For some reason the three sections of the Prevention of Corruption Act which Parliament was set to dilute in terms of going soft on prosecution of government officers, who indulged in corruption and illegal commercial transactions, did not go to the Rajya Sabha. Otherwise, this amendment (along with the 17 bills that were passed in 12 minutes on a single day in September 2010), would have showed that the political class sitting in Parliament, which pompously boasts about 'parliamentary supremacy', was not interested in removing corruption, but was in fact keen to condone it, says Santosh Hegde, member of the joint drafting committee of the Lokpal Bill.

Justice Hegde made these remarks during a public lecture he delivered at the Nehru Memorial Hall in Pune on Monday, at the invitation of the chartered accountants fraternity, a day after Anna Hazare broke his 13-day fast for a strong anti-corruption law.

He referred to a report of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India, saying, "According to the 2008-09 CAG report, in one single year Rs54,000 crore, which was to be spent on eight rural development schemes like midday meal, water supply and so on, are not accounted for. Where has the money been siphoned off that would have enhanced the quality of life of thousands of villages? Isn't it time to bring in a strong legislation against such large-scale corruption?''Mr Hegde asked.

The former judge of the Supreme Court also made a pointed reference to the Reliance KG Basin oil deal as likely to become larger than the 2G scam, to make a strong legislation against corruption the topmost priority.

He said, "The first administrative reforms were made in 1962, when Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru was prime minister. Only 14 years after Independence, the need was felt to control decay in the administration. We chose the Scandinavian system of having an ombudsman and it was at that time that it was recommended to have an institution called the Lokpal at the centre and Lokayukta at the state level. But the proposal gathered dust, until in 1984, Ramkrishna Hegde became chief minister of Karnataka and promised value-based governance, and he fulfilled the promise by instituting the Lokayukta at the state level and it became an Act in 1986. However, the government at the centre slept over the issue for 48 years.''

In the context of the scams that were busted in 2010, Justice Hegde said, "Some members in civil society decided to draft a bill and have a discussion with the government. However, the government was unwilling. Anna Hazare sent a letter in February 2011, but there was no reply. It is only when he began his fast in April that the law ministry said the letter sent to the prime minister was misplaced and that we should send another copy. On the third day, an emissary was sent, but Anna insisted that a notification be issued and thus was born the joint drafting committee.''

Justice Hegde, who completed his term as Lokayukta of Karnataka earlier this month, mentioned how all the nine meetings of the joint drafting committee for a strong Lokpal Bill failed, as the government representatives on the committee said a singular "no" or "keep it in brackets" (meaning, "we will see"). Due to this stubborn attitude of the government to stall a strong legislation, that Anna Hazare was compelled to go on a fast a second time. Thereafter, Justice Hegde said, some government representatives even started questioning the credibility of Team Anna, with statements like 'Who are you-the unelectable and the unelected-to tell us how to have a law?' Look at the audacity of these parliamentarians who have changed the meaning of democracy, which in the right essence is by the people, for the people and of the people!''

Urging the people to undertake a mass education campaign on the Jan Lokpal Bill, Justice Hegde said people should not forget the humiliation meted out to the people of India by politicians, and if they meet any of them they should ask them, "Do you know who I am? I am a citizen of India and so I hold the highest office."

Justice Hegde concluded by saying that he felt nostalgic when Anna broke his fast on 28th August. "I was seven years old when my parents took me to a public ground when India attained freedom on 15 August 1947. I felt the same sense of pride and patriotism when Anna broke his fast.''

Asked about his disagreement with Team Anna over Mr Hazare's fast, Justice Hegde said, "I was worried about Anna's health".

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