Fast and furious

Anna Hazare’s crusade against corruption has gathered momentum. Arousing the conscience of the nation on the issue augurs well. But the spontaneous response of people to his detention and fast needs to be guided in the right direction. Peaceful protest is permissible and Mr Hazare’s motive in undertaking the fast is laudable, but compelling Parliament to enact his Jan Lokpal Bill is not constitutionally permissible.

Even the Supreme Court of India cannot dictate to Parliament. Mr Hazare should immediately defuse the mounting tension, pause and consider a few legal aspects and direct his attention and energies towards a more constructive path for achieving the object, instead of continuing with his fast.
Assuming that Mr Hazare’s Jan Lokpal Bill becomes a law, will it eradicate corruption? The Lokpal Act will only provide yet another mechanism to bring some corrupt public servants in high positions to book. The Prevention of Corruption Act, 1947, and its successor act of 1988 have not succeeded in preventing corruption. Only one Lokayukta, Justice Santosh Hegde in Karnataka, has shown courage of conviction and submitted a report holding a senior politician, former Karnataka chief minister B.S. Yeddyurappa, guilty of corruption. Punitive measures are necessary, but their effect is limited. The Jan Lokpal Bill will neither prevent appointment of corrupt officials to public offices nor facilitate immediate suspension or removal of public servants of doubtful integrity, essential steps for checking
corruption.
Also, is the insistence on bringing the office of the Prime Minister and the senior judiciary within the purview of Lokpal proper when opinion is divided among experts on the issue? Judicial luminiaries, like former Chief Justices M.N. Venkatachaliah and J.S. Verma, have advised against inclusion of the Prime Minister and judges for sound reasons. There are reservations among leaders of political parties as well on this issue. Inclusion of judges may make the judicial process vulnerable because of interference with the independence of the judiciary, a basic feature of the Constitution.
Is it right to bring moral pressure on Parliament through a fast to enact a particular bill? Would such fast be consistent with the ethos of parliamentary democracy which is another basic feature of the Constitution? Dr B.R. Ambedkar, in his last speech in the Constituent Assembly, said, “We must abandon the method of civil disobedience, non-cooperation and satyagraha. When there was no way left for constitutional methods to achieve economic and social objectives, there was a great deal of justification for unconstitutional methods. But where constitutional methods are open, there can be no justification for these unconstitutional methods. These methods are nothing but the grammar of anarchy and the sooner they are abandoned, the better for us.” According to this view, Mr Hazare’s fast is unconsti