Tharoor opposes Anna’s arrest, ‘omnipotent’ Lokpal

August 23rd, 2011 - 9:07 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Aug 23 (IANS) Terming Anna Hazare’s detention over a week ago “unwise”, Congress MP Shashi Tharoor said Tuesday a strong Lokpal was needed, but “a large, omnipotent and unaccountable supra-institution” can itself fall prey to corruption.

“Annaji’s brief detention by the Delhi Police was unwise, which is why he was swiftly released. Our government does realise that ideas can’t be arrested,” he told IANS when asked for his views on Hazare’s fast for a stronger Lokpal bill and anti-corruption campaign.

Suggesting dialogue and compromise, Tharoor, a former UN diplomat and author, said he shared the passion against corruption shown by Hazare’s followers, but added that he differed with them on the details of the Jan Lokpal bill.

“As one who has long urged an end to public apathy about politics, I’m inspired by seeing the passion of Annaji’s followers,” said Tharoor.

The Congress MP from Thiruvananthapuram said that there are “patriotic and principled Indians” amongst critics of the bill being pushed by Hazare.

Backing “a strong anti-corruption ombudsman, with genuine autonomy and authority and substantial powers of action”, Tharoor, however, warned against an “omnipotent” Lokpal.

“In particular, some of the provisions insisted upon by Annaji risk creating a large, omnipotent and unaccountable supra-institution that could not be challenged, reformed or removed,” said Tharoor, a former minister of state for external affairs.

“If the current governmental bodies tasked with investigation, vigilance, and audit are deemed to be insufficiently impervious to corruption, it is worth asking what guarantee there is that the new institution of Jan Lokpal could not be infected by the same virus — and if so, what could be done about it, since it would literally be a law unto itself.”

“We must build in safeguards to ensure that a new institution of Lokpal doesn’t itself fall prey to corruption,” Tharoor said.

As a course correction, he suggested that a Lokpal be created quickly, but to limit its existence to seven years so that its flaws can be reviewed before it is renewed by a fresh act of parliament.

Tharoor stressed that although everyone agreed on the need to eliminate corruption, the real debate was about choosing the right means to do so.

Urging MPs not to accept “an all-or-nothing approach to the Lokpal bill”, Tharoor argued that there was “room for discussion and some possibility of compromise” and stressed that he will work towards this on the floor of the house.

“I look forward to parliament debating all the options available. We must do the right thing but we must do the thing right,” he added.

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