Despite protests, the Delhi government has tabled Lokpal bill in the Assembly.
Leaders of Swaraj Abhiyan, the hardline group that split from Aam Aadmi Party, including Prashant Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav were detained by the police after they marched to the Delhi Assembly against the ‘toothless’ Lokpal in Delhi.
The bill is unlikely to be made into law as it has provisions for prosecuting even the prime minister of India.
“This bill contains a strange clause that includes all corruption within the territory of NCT. This would exclude corruption by Delhi officials done outside territorial limits and include all corruption by central govt officials… (This is) a ploy to invite rejection of the bill by central govt and use this for ongoing confrontation,” said Yogendra Yadav.
The original Delhi Lokpal bill crafted last year had a selection committee of seven members comprising of the Chief Minister of Delhi, Leader of Opposition in Delhi assembly, two judges from Delhi High Court, one from among previous Chairpersons of Janlokpal and two persons from any of the following — retired judges of the Supreme Court and High Courts, retired Chief of Army, Navy, Airforce, retired chief secretaries or principal secretaries to the government, retired vice-chancellors, retired CEC/CIC/CAG, retired members of UPSC, retired secretaries to the Government of India.
Instead of a five-member committee with 3 non-political appointees, the new bill calls for a four-member committee comprising the Delhi Chief Minister, Delhi Leader of Opposition, Speaker of Assembly and a High Court judge.
Another key characteristic of the ‘defeated’ bill — independent investigating agency — has also been disposed with by Kejriwal’s government, according to Swaraj Abhiyan and Bhushan.
“No investigative machinery has been given to or placed under Lokpal as per the section 10 of the proposed bill. This means that the Lokpal will have to carry its investigations through officers and machinery provided by governments. Needless to say the investigating officers would obviously be under the control of governments which provide the investigators,” Swaraj Abhiyan said.
Another point of difference is in the Lokpal’s removal process.
According to last year’s bill, the Chairperson or any other member of the Lokpal shall only be removed by the President on recommendation from the High Court after an inquiry on a complaint against the concerned.
However, in the new bill introduced by Sisodia today, Chairman and members can be removed by the Lieutenant Governor of Delhi after a motion passed by the majority of the total membership and two-third members in the assembly present and voting.
Kejriwal, Bhushan and Yadav rose to prominence as a result of their fight for the introduction of a tough anti-corruption law known as Janlokpal (people’s ombudsman against corruption) bill.
The Aam Aadmi Party, of which Yadav and Bhushan were still a part of, even resigned from power last year after it failed to get legislative support in Delhi Assembly to pass Janlokpal. However, soon after, the people of Delhi gave them 67 seats out of a total of 70 seats in the Delhi Assembly.
This was followed by a fight between the idealistic wing — led by Yadav and Bhushan — and the ‘pragmatic’ wing, led by Kejriwal. Ultimately, Yadav and Bhushan were forced out of all key posts in the party.
On November 18, Bhushan indicated that he hardline wing of the party is planning to restart agitations for the passing of Janlokpal bill in Delhi.
In a tweet, he said: “285 days: No Lokpall for Delhi. Internal Lokpal removed. MLAs caught in corruption scams.”
However, on the same day, Delhi government passed the ‘Janlokpal bill’ according to media.
This was followed by new accusations that Kejriwal and company had changed the contents of the bill.
“AAP not revealing ‘Lokpal bill passed by Cabinet’!Can it hide behind ‘breach of privelege’,” asked Bhushan the next day.
However, AAP spokespersons continued to maintain that no change had been made in the contents of the bill.
Ultimately, on Sunday, Bhushan held a press conference in which he highlighted the differences between the Janlokpal bill and the one that he said has been approved by Delhi’s cabinet.
“The Delhi Lolpal Bill 2015 had gone back on all the main promises of the JanLokpal movement,” said Yogendra Yadav on Sunday.
He said the new bill has abandoned the following principles – Appointment of Lokpal to be done in an open manner by involving the public in search process, the final selection of Lokpal to be done by a committee where independent, non-political and non-govt appointees have majority, a special investigative agency has to be created by or controlled by Lokpal and Lokpal will have power over all the functionaries of the relevant govt. “The 2015 bill does not meet the basic demands made in JanLokpal movement from point 1 to 3,” he added.
Swaraj Abhiyan, the breakaway group, also alleges that Delhi’s bill was “worse” than the Act drafted by JanLokpal activists that was passed by Uttarakhand assembly.
Yadav said that after the press conference by Bhushan, no one from Aam Aadmi Party came forward to refute the points.
“The evidence was simply too powerful to be refuted. Instead they offered the argument (besides a number of insults, abuses and innuendos) that the 2015 bill is exactly the same as the one proposed by the short lived AAP govt in 2014.
“Today Prashant has refuted this final lie as well. He has placed a copy of the 2014 bill proving that it was not the same as the new one. In all key provisions the AAP govt has diluted what it had proposed last year,” he added.
The infighting in the Aam Aadmi Party is likely to be watched by the opposition BJP with considerable glee. The BJP was taken totally by surprise late last year when it lost the Delhi election very badly.
However, over the last few months, the BJP has regained some of its popular support. As an indication, the AAP’s student wing came third after BJP and Congress in the high-profile Delhi’s student polls held earlier this year.