The India Against Corruption group at Bangalore announced the results of the ‘referendum’ on the Lokpal Bill from the Chikkaballpur and Bangalore South parliamentary constituencies. The results indicated a clear majority for strengthening the Lokpal.
Ninety-three per cent of people in Chikkaballapur and eighty-six per cent of South Bangalore constituency want the Prime Minister to come under the ambit of Lokpal. Ninety-five per cent of people in Chikkaballapur and ninety-three per cent in Bangalore also want Lokpal to cover central government and state government through Lokayuktas.
A total of 85,000 questionnaires had been distributed in Chikkaballapur and Bangalore South, over the last few weeks. While 30,646 completed questionnaires were collected from Bangalore, 20,042 completed questionnaires were collected from Chikkaballpur, taking the total count to 50,688. Counting for the remaining forms is in progress. (Previous Citizen Matters report on the referendum process and the questions that were asked can be found here.)
The numbers come four days after Anna Hazare announced the results of a similar referendum carried out in Delhi’s Chandni Chowk constituency. Speaking at the IAC press conference, just retired Karnataka Lokayukta Justice Santosh Hegde applauded the initiative. He said that in a true parliamentary democracy, elected representatives cannot ignore the voices of people in their constituencies. "They are representatives and should represent instead of speaking for themselves. This referendum has shown what people really want," he said.
Justice Hegde also came down heavily on the Central Government’s version of the Lokpal Bill.
Ashwin Mahesh, member of former chief minister B S Yeddyurappa’s Agenda for Bengaluru Infrastructure and Development Task Force (ABIDe) said that the ‘referendum’ is a befitting reply to representatives who are under the impression that they are the masters of their constituencies and that they should sit up and take notice. He said that the results can be confidently extrapolated to being that of the entire constituency’s due to its overwhelming majority.
Mahesh called upon the Opposition, Bharatiya janata Party (BJP) to put pressure on the central government to create a stronger Lokpal. He added that the initiative carried out in Karnataka is significant as the state has the largest number of MP’s in the Opposition in Lok Sabha. "The Opposition needs to really step up now," he said.
Hedge quarrels with UPA’s Lokpal Bill
Hegde, who was also on the drafting committee of the Jan Lokpal Bill, said that many provisions in the government’s version render the Lokpal ‘impotent’. He said that the government is using the issue of inclusion of Prime Minister and Judges in the Bill to deflect more serious concerns that prevent Lokpal from having any real teeth.
Justice Hegde said that the government’s draft wants Lokpal to develop its own corruption investigating agency but developing and honing such an agency would take several years. "Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has an existing anti-corruption wing which has the expertise to carry out such investigations. If all the matters related to corruption will be addressed by Lokpal , why can the Government not transfer the wing to the new agency instead of asking it to start afresh," he said.
Justice Hegde also pointed out that the government’s draft allowed for any government servant to file a counter-complaint against anyone who has complained of corruption against the official. Expenses incurred by the government servant during the proceedings will be borne by the government. The government’s draft also says that in the event of the case being decided against the complainant, he/she can be imprisoned for up to two years. "How can such provisions, which can have such grave consequences for the whistle-blower, be brought in. It will be a deterrent," he said.
Criticising the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) on not giving the powers to investigate Prime Minister and Judges, Justice Hegde said that the constitution has exempted only President of India and Governor of States against prosecution. "If the Constitution of India has not excluded the Prime Ministers from being prosecuted, what right has the Government to exclude them?"
Citizens meet Justice Hegde
Earlier in the morning at 8 o’clock, members of IAC, Sankey Park Walker’s Association, some students and residents of Malleshwaram visited Justice Hegde at his home in Sadashivnagar before the results of the IAC constituency survey were announced. The group of close to 50 people interacted with the septuagenarian for over an hour on the issues of corruption and how the common man can tackle it.
Justice Hegde said that now that he has retired from Lokayukta, he will participate in more demonstrations against corruption and support anyone who takes up the cause. He added that people should not expect results overnight and should collectively use their right to speech to combat corruption.
Dr Meenakshi Bharath, of Malleshwaram Swabhimana Initiative, said that they wanted to meet Justice Hegde to thank him for inspiring him to stand up against corruption despite all the pressure mounted him. "We also wanted to discuss issues related to the Sarkari Lokpal Bill and corruption," she said.
Kiran T G, 24, a B Com student, who had come with a group of friends, said that they would all try to be more involved in public affairs and not give in to bribing. "It was inspiring to hear Justice Hegde speak on corruption and how to combat it. We will try to follow his advice," said Kiran.
When one of the visitors brought up the subject of Justice Hegde becoming the Lokpal, the former Lokayukta said that if the government’s version of the Bill was passed, he would not want to be part of such a toothless organisation. "If people ask me what I have accomplished after becoming Lokpal, I will not be able to answer them," he said. He said that the maximum age limit for a Lokpal is set at 70 so he would not qualify anyway. On a humourous note he quipped, "My wife is threatening to leave me if I take up anymore such work. I can’t afford that." ⊕