Friday, April 22, 2011

Concerted campaign to scuttle Lokpal Bill: Santosh Hegde

BANGALORE: In less than a fortnight of its formation, the joint committee for drafting the Lokpal Bill is falling apart. Even as civil society representatives Shanti Bhushan and Prashant Bhushan are battling attacks on their integrity, another civil society leading light, Justice NSantosh Hegde, is thinking of quitting the panel. 

Stung by Congress general secretary Digvijay Singh's references to his ineffectuality in dealing with corruption in Karnataka, Hegde, who is the Karnataka Lokayukta, told TOI: "I'm angry and hurt. I came to know through the media thatDigvijay Singh said I was trying to protect Karnataka CM B S Yeddyurappa on corruption charges. I've tried to be honest in my entire career."

He said he was reconsidering his decision to join the committee, but would take a final decision on Saturday after meeting the other civil society activists. He said there was a concerted campaign to discredit the civil society members of the joint committee. It would appear he was not prepared to face up to the campaign. 

While Hegde seemed to be wilting under the pressure, Anna Hazare himself appeared to be distancing himself from the controversy. He was heard saying on TV that he had nothing to do with the Bhushans. 

Hegde said, "There is a concerted effort to scuttle the Lokpal Bill, which has been pending for 42 years. It's something like former CM HD Kumaraswamy giving me suo motu powers for prosecution but governor Rameshwar Thakur declining sanction. Politicians do not like their conduct to be examined." 

He added, "I am apolitical and committee members from civil society don't belong to any political party. First, they targeted Anna Hazare. When that did not stick, their focus has been on Shanti Bhushan. While Arvind Kejriwal was too smart for them, I am their latest target." 

Clarifying that he did not want to go into the CD controversy relating to the Bhushans, Hegde said the smear campaign was only designed to nix the formulation of a strong anti-corruption law against politicians and bureaucrats. 

"Our concern should not be about how good or bad Shanti Bhushan is but how good or bad the proposed Lokpal Bill will be. The legislation has nothing to do with any panel member's conduct. It aims to create an institution," he said

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