Thursday, August 18, 2011

PC praises Hazare as true Gandhian, clarifies Delhi police did not send him to Tihar

Congress turns aggressive, says real issue is Hazare's insistence on Jan Lokpal Bill

New Delhi: The UPA government came back strong on Wednesday evening over the debate on prime minister Manmohan Singh's statement about Anna Hazare's arrest on Tuesday. Home minister P.Chidambaram and HRD minister Kapil Sibal said that real issue of Anna Hazare's arrest was not about his democratic right to protest, which is undoubtedly his, but the reason behind the fast.

Chidambaram said that Anna Hazare wanted parliament to pass not just a strong and effective Lokpal Bill, which is a reasonable demand, but the Jan Lokpal Bill prepared by his civil society group. He said that this demand is unacceptable to him and it should be unacceptable to parliament.

Sibal said that it was this demand of Hazare which was the crux, and the House needed to focus on it.

The home minister praised Hazare for being a Gandhian and being frank and honest about wanting to break the prohibitory orders imposed by the Delhi police. Chidambaram dismissed Leader of Opposition Sushma Swaraj's objection that there was no Section 144 in Mayur Vihar from where Hazare was arrested. He explained that the law provides for arresting a person who violates Section 144 or even intends to do so.

“When the Delhi police asked Mr Anna Hazare whether he intedned to break the law, like a true Gandhian he said he would. That left no choice with the police but to arrest him,” he said.

Chidambaram also explained that it was the executive magistrate who remanded Hazare to seven days judicial custody and it was not the intention of the Delhi police. The magistrate too was constrained to send Hazare to prison because Hazare refused to be released on a self-signed bond and assurance that he would not break the law in future.

Where the prime minister was defensive in the evening, home minister P. Chidambaram who replied to the debate, HRD minister Kapil Sibal and finance minister Pranab Mukherjee harped on the supremacy of parliament to make laws, something that Singh mentioned towards the end of his statement.

Responding to the Opposition criticism that it was the government which mollycoddled the Hazare group, Chidambaram said that Mukherjee had made it plain that this collaboration with the civil society in the drafting of the bill was an experiment and the government was aware of it.

He also said that if the opposition were to say that the experiment failed, he would have no quarrel with that, and if the opposition were to say that there are lessons to be learned from this, he would agree on that too. He said that it would be going too far to say that there should be no further dealings with civil society as such.

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