On the edge of catastrophe
17 August 2011
If the Lokpal has the power to prosecute, then some other body must have the power to adjudicate. That other body must be totally independent of the Lokpal if justice is not to be turned into a joke. This pre-requisite would be violated if the judiciary is brought under the Lokpal, writes Prem Shankar Jha
Anna Hazare made a mistake: for two months he and his colleagues were asking for that which could not be given.
The government had already conceded, albeit tacitly, that Indian democracy had become so corrupt and criminalised that it was endangering its own future. It had also conceded that our parliamentarians, bureaucrats and police would never reform themselves.
It had therefore admitted that it needed the help of civil society to save democracy and safeguard India's future.
After three months of negotiations, the joint drafting committee had narrowed the areas of disagreement down to a handful. But the handful contained two demands that the government could not concede.
These were the inclusion of the prime minister and the judiciary within the purview of the Lokpal. On both these issues Anna Hazare and his colleagues were just plainly in the wrong. The prime minister cannot be brought under the Lokpal's jurisdiction because he or she is the fountainhead of executive power in parliamentary democracy.
An investigation of his conduct on charges of corruption could paralyse the state and put it in grave danger. A temporary stand-in would fare only a little better for his cabinet colleagues would see little gain in cooperating with him. In short, the logic of power is different from that of representation. Once given up, it cannot, indeed must not be reclaimed.