10 APril : Anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare has firmly ruled out any changes in civil society’s nominees in Lokpal Bill drafting committee, asserting there was no differences after Baba Ramdev’s criticism on inclusion of father-son duo Shanti and Prashant Bhushan.
Declaring they were focussed on having a “good and effective” law against graft, the 73-year-old social activist also said the process of formulating the act will be videographed and the procedures made public, a day after he ended his fast demanding a stronger anti-corruption Lokpal Bill.
“The committee has been set up now. Now we have to see how to take it forward. The preparations of the draft will begin from April 16. The entire process should be videographed so that people can see who is saying what. What government is saying, what we are saying. There will be nothing in hiding.”The Gandhian went on a damage control mode to make it clear there will be no resignation or fresh appointments in the committee and spoke to Ramdev after the Yoga guru had objected to the inclusion of the Bhushans, both lawyers, in the panel.
“I have talked to Ramdev. We have no personal differences on this issue. This issue will not be there for long. The Committee will be there for two months. It is not a permanent committee of five to 10 years,” he told reporters on Sunday.
“He had raised with me the issue of why Bedi was not a member of the panel. I explained to him that Bedi herself has told us that she did not want to be part of the panel. I told him that this committee is not a permanent one and the Bhushans have legal expertise,” Hazare said in Haridwar on Sunday.
Ramdev, who had joined Hazare in the agitation, alleged inclusion of the Bhushans in the committee showed nepotism.
“Why is there nepotism in the committee? Why both father and son are accommodated in the committee?” Ramdev had asked.
He claimed there was some misunderstanding and that the issue has been sorted out and claimed that the question of nepotism was raised by the media.
“The question of nepotism was raised by the media and not me. When I was asked about it, I said that though we have played a role in the Jan Lokpal Bill movement, we had no say in the formation of the committee,” Ramdev said on Sunday.
“I do not have a problem with inclusion of Shanti and Prashant Bhushan in the panel. We trust Annaji’s (Anna Hazare’s) judgement on the matter. I only said volunteers wanted Kiran Bedi on the panel,” he said backtracking on his earlier remarks.
Ramdev had joined the agitation which led to the government agreeing to form a 10-member joint committee including civil society representatives to draft Lokpal Bill.
RTI activist Arvind Kejriwal appealed to the media not to see “conspiracy” in everything.
Hazare and Kejriwal strongly defended the inclusion of the Bhushan duo saying their services were required since they were legal experts and have a grip of the nitty gritty relating to drafting laws.
“To form the draft, it is important to have understanding of the law and experts are needed for it,” Hazare said.
Shanti Bhushan, a veteran lawyer, said that his son Prashant had himself raised the issue of the two being part of the same committee but maintained it was Hazare who felt that they as experts needed to be part of it.
Arvind Kejriwal and Kiran Bedi said the issue was not about individuals but that of a strong legislation being drafted by it.
Kejriwal said on Saturday night he had talked to Ramdev and the misunderstanding has been cleared.
Bedi, who has been urging the media to give as much coverage to Hazare’s campaign as they did during the Cricket World Cup, said she did not want to be part of the panel at all and wanted the experts to do their job.
“This is an A-plus team. Only those people can be part of this committee who know the government’s functioning and can help in making a law that will look into all aspects of fighting large-scale corruption”, Bedi said.
Hazare said that even he had initially refused to be part of the drafting panel as it was important to have an effective bill.
“Who should be part of it and who should stay out are not important matters. This will be of importance at a later stage”, he explained.
Hazare disagreed with Baba Ramdev, saying, “You can level any allegation against me. I am a person who follows Gandhian principles. Nothing wrong in having two members of the same family in the panel. We need experience. We need expertise”.
Kejriwal said he saw no reason behind the discussion on who all from the civil society should be part of the joint committee.
“I don’t see any reason behind this discussion. Those who were part of the team that prepared the first draft of the Jan Lok Pal Bill — Justice Santosh Hegde, Shanti and Prashant Bhushan and I — are part of this committee”, Kejriwal said.