Anna Hazare and his crusade against corruption seem to have taken urban India by storm. But holding contrary views is a distinguished constitutional lawyer, Mr. Sohan K. Jain who describes the Jan Lokpal bill as a draft ‘driven on emotional attitude’ and calls the movement led by his peers as ‘terrorism of emotional activists with allegiance from their media counterparts’. A leading legal practitioner since 1972, Mr. Jain has also served twice as a member of Bar Council of Maharashtra (1985-1997). He is interviewed here by Priyanka Nadgir.
Q: The government appointed the Jan Lokpal committee to draft a bill as representatives of civil society. Does the bill have a constitutional basis to it since the drafters are not party to either House of Parliament?
SKJ: Firstly, the bill drafted by the Jan Lokpal committee is not a ‘bill’ as members of either House of Parliament are not drafting it. That is a misnomer on the part of the government or the media. Basically, it is not uncommon to have representatives of civil society invited by the government to voice any of their causes, but these are mere suggestions, which are put forward to the Law ministry in the form of a public notice. Government can form committees, as it has done in this case, only to invite views.
Q: But the Anna crusade has been pressurising government to forward their draft to the parliament, why hasn’t the legality of this move been questioned?
SKJ: The government has called it on themselves. They entertained their wishes from the very beginning without drawing boundaries. Since the movement supports fight against corruption, which has always been a grave concern, none of us are bothered to question and answer the legal effects of this draft. We are blindly flowing with the current of opinion, which has no consequence whatsoever.
Q: From the perspectives of a constitutional lawyer, what is your stance on the Jan Lokpal draft?
SKJ: The Jan Lokpal draft has both inherent advantages and disadvantages. It asks for the establishment of a corruption agency, which single-handedly is to eradicate corruption, which is not humanly possible. This is a layman view that I hold. Why ask for more agencies? Why allocate more resources? We should rather strengthen the ones that already exist. If we take the CBI for example, it required investigating officers who were not part of the police force, but today at least 70 per cent deputation of the officers from the police force takes place. We need character development, not any more institutions. Where will we find and import people of Mr. Hazare’s caliber? It is impossible to have any body graft-free.
Q: If Mr. Hazare had to stay within the scope of his constitutional rights and fight, the draft would not have gained such a momentum as it has today. People believe in this fight and are ready to support the messiah of anti-corruption to any extent. Is this ‘stairway to change’ lawful?
SKJ: I support some of the provisions laid down in the draft, but I don’t support the strategy. While Mr. Jayaprakash Narayan fought for the anti-corruption movement, he fought as a parliamentarian. Even though he didn’t succeed in his attempt completely, he followed the law and fought by keeping his rights in mind. If Mr. Hazare wants the civil society to bring about a change, he should fight elections; fight as an independent because he won’t procure much support from the political parties. This modus operandi employed by him shows lack of faith in democracy and the Constitution.
Q: What about the referendum, which the committee seeks? Are there any provisions in the constitution to support referendums?
SKJ: There are no provisions in the Constitution related to direct referendums. If referendums were allowed, people would have opted for complete autonomy and neither Kashmir nor Telangana nor Tamil Nadu would be a part of this country.
-- Priyanka Nadgir is final year student at the Symbiosis Law School, Pune. She volunteers at Open Space and writes a blog on legal issues.