Hazare’s stir plan unjustified, says Chidambaram (Lead)

August 12th, 2011 - 7:26 pm ICT by IANS  

P. Chidambaram New Delhi, Aug 12 (IANS) The government Friday termed as “unjustified” activist Anna Hazare’s plans for a hunger strike to press for an anti-graft law and said a bill on the issue has been introduced in parliament and was under the consideration of a parliamentary standing committee.

“At this stage, any extra-parliamentary protests seem unjustified,” Home Minister P. Chidambaram said at a press conference here.

Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal and Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office V. Narayanasamy also addressed the press conference.

Chidambaram said the people of the country were “reasonably satisfied” with the government for “purposefully moving ahead” with the Lokpal (obmudsman) bill — by drafting it in consultation with the civil society members and introducing it in parliament.

“But this bill is not the final law. The parliamentary committee has to consider it and views of the opposition and other members will have to be taken, alongside the views of the Rajya Sabha, before it is passed,” he said.

The home minister said the government was ready for talks on the Lokpal bill but it was for “Hazare to decide (whether to take part in the discussion)”.

Chidambaram said he thought the protest by the social activist was justified when there was no Lokpal bill.

He said everybody has “a right” to protest. But only the context of such protests would decide if it was justified or not.

“But now there is a bill that was drafted by a committee that included Anna Hazare. It is now in parliament, which has referred it to a standing committee. The committee, in its first meeting, invited Anna Hazare and his team to present their views and they have given their views,” he said.

Narayanasamy expressed similar views, saying that parliament had to pass the legislation but before that the bill would be considered by the standing committee.

“Either you accept the democracy and its processes or you negate democracy and say ‘my way or the highway’,” Chidambaram told Hazare’s team.

Asked if Hazare would be permitted to go ahead with his protest at Jantar Mantar, where he had held his fast-unto-death for a Lokpal bill in April this year, the home minister said the call was the Delhi police commissioner’s to take.

On Jantar Mantar not being made available to Hazare for his hunger protest, Chidambaram said it was not possible to provide the same place for a single group throughout the day.

“Nobody can be given a special concession. The place is not available for the entire day. There is more than one group that wants to hold protests at the same venue. So the police have to divide the time slots among all of them.”

Noting that a couple of venues had been suggested for Hazare’s protest, he said a decision would be arrived at on the basis of merits by the police chief.

Asked if the government would consider the fast-unto-death by Hazare as “attempt to suicide” under the criminal laws and take action, Chidambaram said the government had the powers to act and intervene if “any one’s life is in danger”. He, however, clarified that his comments were general in nature and not specific to Hazare.

Referring to Hazare’s team holding a referendum in Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi’s constituency Amethi and claiming that their draft of the Lokpal bill had majority support, Chidambaram quipped: “I can only repeat what Kapil Sibal said — I am surprised it is not 100 percent.”

Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal’s constituency in the capital, Chandni Chowk in old Delhi, too witnessed a similar referendum recently by Hazare’s team and there too the Hazare team claimed majority support.

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