On the backfoot over the arrest of Anna Hazare and his supporters, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh addressed Parliament on Wednesday and justified the police crackdown on the anti-corruption crusader. He first addressed the Lok Sabha first at 11 AM and the Rajya Sabha soon afterwards.
“It’s my painful duty to report to this house certain events that took place yesterday in New Delhi. After extensive consultations the government has introduced a bill in Lok Sabha, the bill has been referred to the Standing Committee. Anna Hazare wants his bill should be passed in Parliament. Government has introduced the Lokpal Bill in Parliament. Anna and supporters are persisting with the demand for the Jan Lokpal Bill,” said Singh in his address.
“Anna Hazare’s arrest was needed to maintain public peace. I hope incidents of yesterday will not be repeated,” he said.
The Opposition MPs tried to disrupt Singh’s statement in the Lok Sabha even as the Prime Minister claimed that Hazare had been granted permission by the Delhi Police to go ahead with his protest fast at Jai Prakarh Narayan Park in New Delhi from August 16 subject to certain conditions.
“Delhi Police did give permission to Anna for fast subject to certain conditions. On August 13, 2011 the Delhi police informed the applicants that the permission will be granted at JP Park subjected to conditions. Delhi Police wanted them to sign an undertaking. On August 15 the organisers refused to accept six of the conditions. Delhi Police informed the applicants since they have refused the conditions, permission will not be granted. Prohibitory orders under Section 144 were imposed in and around JP Park.” said Singh.
The Prime Minister said that Hazare made it clear on August 15 that he and his supporters would defy law and proceed on protest.
“Yesterday morning Delhi Police came to conclusion that it was clear that Anna Hazare would still go ahead the fast and he was taken into the custody. Anna was arrested as a preventive measure,” Singh added even as Opposition MPs tried to shout out him.
Singh said that all the people detained in Delhi were released later on Tuesdaty evening. He claimed that Hazare also intended to move the Supreme Court challenging the Delhi Police order on Wednesday.
“Delhi Police decided to release Anna and others at 7 PM yesterday (Tuesday) evening. Anna Hazare and one other declined to leave the jail. They said they will leave only if they are allowed the fast at JP Park. Our government acknowledges the right of each citizen in the country but appropriate conditions are given to all the organisers,” he said.
Soon afterwards the Opposition MPs created a ruckus in the Lok Sabha, forcing the Prime Minister to stop making his statement.
However, indicating that the Government was not ready to climbdown on the issue of Hazare demanding that Jan Lokpal Bill be made into a law, the Prime Minister said that Parliament has the sole right to make laws and it cannot be challenged.
“The government wishes to stress the issue is not whether the Lokpal Bill is necessary or not. All of us agree that Lokpal Bill should be passed; the question is who makes the law. In the presence of adoption of the bill, there will be opportunity for Anna Hazare and others and the parliament to raise objections. We are all in agreement that Lokpal is needed. Question is who makes the law. I am not aware of any constitutional principles that allow anyone else other than Parliament to frame laws,” he added.
Referring to his speech from the Red Fort on August 15, Singh said he had spoken in his Independence Day speech on the need to fight corruption.
He also admitted that there was no magic wand that could rid India of corruption in one stroke.
“We should agree on issues with dialogue and consensus. They must allow the elected representatives in the parliament to do the job. I outlined measures to fight corruption. We want support from everyone to fight corruption,” he appealed.
While criticising Hazare and his supporters that the path chosen by them to impose their version of the anti-corruption legislation as “totally misconceived”, he also appealed MPs to let Parliament function smoothly.
“I request all political parties so that the parliament works smoothly. There are a lot of bills that we need to pass that are in interest of the aam aadmi. We are willing to debate every issue in Parliament. We are cooperating with the opposition in every possible way to ensure Parliament works smoothly,” he appealed.
“It is the sole prerogative of Parliament to make laws and government has gone by well-settled principles. Let us unite for a better future for the country,” he added.
As soon as Singh finished his statement in the Lok Sabha and left for the Rajya Sabha, Opposition MPs started shouting slogans demanding a discussion of the statement.
Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar pointed out there was no rule for allowing discussion immediately after a statement is made.
Leader of Opposition and BJP MP Sushma Swaraj was given the permission to initiate discussion even as the Speaker asked the MPs not to level allegations against any person in particular.
Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal got involved in a war of words with Swaraj after she said that the Prime Minister should have stayed in the House to listen to the discussion.
Bansal replied that the Prime Minister had to make a statement in the Rajya Sabha too and accused the Opposition of trying to end Parliament’s relevance.
Sushma countered saying, “I never said that the Prime Minister should not go to the Rajya Sabha. I only said he should to listen to us.”
She was supported by senior BJP MP LK Advani who said that Tuesday’s crackkdown on Team Anna is a cause of worry. “It reminds us of Emergency days. They made Anna Hazare mute, but they can’t stop us from speaking,” he said.
Bansal accused Advani of misleading everyone. “He is creating an unpleasant environment. These are crocodile tears,” he said leading to slogan shouting by the Opposition MPs.
The Lok Sabha was adjourned till 12 noon after the Speaker failed to pacify the members.
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