NEW DELHI, April 23, 2011
Campaign against Bhushans seen as a bid to scuttle the formulation of the same
Even as the Finance Minister and chairman of the joint drafting committee on Lokpal Bill, Pranab Mukherjee, said on Friday that the controversy surrounding some panel members would not impact the formulation of the Bill, several civil society groups and organisations condemned the smear campaign as an attempt to scuttle the proposed Bill.
The National Alliance of People’s Movement (NAPM), the Jamia Teachers Solidarity Association and individuals including the former Chief of Naval Staff R.H. Tahiliani, Professor Emeritus of the Jawaharlal Nehru University Amit Bhaduri, social activists Miloon Kothari, Himanshu Thakker, Indra Raghuvanshi, Cheryl D’Souza, and lawyers Kamini Jaiswal and Vrinda Grover expressed their solidarity with the co-chairman of the panel, Shanti Bhushan, and member Prashant Bhushan.
“The Lokpal Bill has been in limbo for nearly four decades now, and the real possibility of a strong Lokpal Bill appears to have shaken certain sections of politicians, media and business interests, who are trying to stall the process by personal attacks on the probity of civil society members on the joint panel,” said Medha Patkar and her NAPM colleagues.
“Prashant Bhushan is well known for his public work for more than two decades now. Apart from cases involving irregularities in government procedures in the Bofors scam and the 2G spectrum allotment, he has appeared in numerous cases involving the Sardar Sarovar Dam, Vedanta University Land Acquisition, and Bhopal Gas Accident at his own expense, without charging any fees. His efforts through the Campaign for Judicial Accountability and Reforms have brought judicial accountability and need for large-scale reforms under public glare. Further, his constant effort in trying to raise his voice against Operation Green Hunt has also raised hackles in certain quarters.”
Criticising the character assassination of Mr. Shanti Bhushan as a “crude attempt to derail the campaign against corruption,” the NAPM said that alleged misconduct, if any, by any person should be investigated by the due process of law but personal conduct of individuals should not be allowed to interfere with the people’s desire for effective legal means to combat corruption.
“The Jan Lokpal Bill needs to be vetted with well-argued criticism from all quarters. It is nobody’s case that a strong Lokpal Act will solve the curse of corruption, but attempts to scuttle the Bill or place a weak, toothless Bill, before Parliament are acts against the people of India. Focus on establishment of the institution of Lokpal is the need of the hour,” the NAPM said.
Urging people to rebuff the malicious attack on the Bhushans, the Jamia Teachers Solidarity Association said: “Demands for their resignation from the panel conveniently erases the not-so-thin line between malicious, motivated and patently false charges — increasingly perceived by public as tactics of blackmail — and documentary evidence of corruption against those who occupy high office and influence policy and administration.”
A group of 59 individuals including social activists, lawyers and others expressed their support to Mr. Prashant Bhushan and demanded that all personal attacks be stopped directly and immediately.