The legal fraternity Saturday applauded the victory of Anna Hazare and rights activists in forcing the government to take on board the members of the civil society for drafting anti-graft Lokpal bill, but cautioned the road ahead is full of difficulties.
“It is an eye opener for the civil society,” says senior counsel Prashant Bhushan, adding that it shows that “if people rally around they can make the government bend to their will”.
The singular achievement of this movement is that the people who till yesterday were feeling helpless and hopeless are now feeling empowered and hopeful. They have come to realise that they can “achieve things by persevering with public pressure”, Bhushan said.
Credited with leading successful legal battle against the appointment of P.J.Thomas as the Central Vigilance Commissioner and the court monitoring of the Central Bureau of Investigation probe into 2G scam, Bhushan feels that next step is more important to take this movement forward.
“Lokpal Bill is the next step. Secondly, it important to widen the movement towards participatory or direct democracy so that people could participate in law making instead of leaving it just to the elected representatives,” he said.
“Why can’t there be a referendum on the Lokpal Bill being presented by the civil society and the one offered by the government?” asks Bhushan, adding that the people’s view could be elicited on the basis whether the issue was of consequence at village, state or the national level.
Anna Hazare went on a 97-hour fast, galvanising the nation against corruption in never before seen way. He broke his fast Saturday morning after the government conceded his demand for including members of civil society in a committee that will draft the anti-corruption Lokpal Bill.
According to the government notification, the drafting committee would comprise five ministers and five nominees of Hazare, including himself.
While the five ministers are Pranab Mukherjee, P. Chidambaram, M. Veerappa Moily, Kapil Sibal and Salman Khursheed, the civil society members are Anna Hazare, former Supreme Court judge N. Santosh Hegde, advocates Shanti and Prashant Bhushan and activist Arvind Kejriwal.
Senior Supreme Court lawyer Colin Gonsalves said: “Every care has to be taken that this movement is not subverted.”
The biggest challenge is that the vested interest would not take the victory of civil society with ease and employ every trick in their arsenal to wreck the movement from within, he said.
“This movement has the potential of cleansing the society and helping the poorest section of the society suffering various kinds of discriminations, be it economic or social.”
Gonsalvaes, who led the battle of Christian victims of Kandhamal violence in Orissa and that of Dalit victims of upper caste violence in Mirchpur village of Haryana, is weary of opportunistic people trying to make inroads into the movement to take political mileage.
He said that it was incumbent upon Anna Hazare and Arvind Kejriwal that the purity of the historic movement was maintained and opportunistic people were kept at bay.
Senior counsel Chetpat Aryama Sundran refuses to see it in terms of victory or defeat of any one but thinks that movement was reflective of the mass awakening as to the issue of corruption and calling upon the government to view it with seriousness it requires.
“Although belatedly and after a lot of prodding the government has treated it with seriousness and urgency it deserved,” says Sundram.
The grandson of Sir C.P. Ramaswami, the erstwhile diwan of Travancore, Sundram said that the next step for the leaders of the movement is to ensure the drafting of an “effective Lokpal Bill so that it would a strong weapon against corruption.”
Counsel Anil Divan said: “It is a very good development. A big victory.”
“The next step Lokpal Bill is properly done,” said Divan, who is leading the legal battle in the apex court seeking direction to the central government to take steps to recover the black money stashed away by Indian citizens in tax havens.
He says it is “positive that government has agreed to people’s voice. Both ways it is a good thing”.