Retired Supreme Court Judge N Santosh Hegde has extended his support to the proposed hunger strike of social activist Anna Hazare from October 2 against the Union government for the delay in appointment of a Lokpal at the Centre.
The former Solicitor General of India, a key member of “Team Anna” that spearheaded a strong anti-corruption movement in the country in 2011, said he would participate in the strike only “for a while” because he has other commitments.
“If I am free on October 2, I will certainly go (to Ralegan Siddhi) or else some other day. I am with Anna Hazare (on this issue),” the former Karnataka Lokayukta told PTI.
Hazare had said he would go on a hunger strike from October 2, the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, at his native Ralegan Siddhi village in Ahmednagar district of Maharashtra, and also appealed people to join him in his campaign for a corruption-free country.
The anti-corruption crusader criticised the NDA government, saying it had earlier assured it will appoint the Lokpal and implement the Lokpal Bill, passed by Parliament and signed by the then President in January 2014.
“But there is a lack of will in this government to curb corruption and hence, it is giving a lot of reasons and delaying the appointment of the Lokpal,” Hazare said.
Echoing his sentiments, Hegde said “It’s quite some time since assurance was given, the law has been passed. For some reason or the other, they are not making [an] appointment.”
The Supreme Court had last week rejected as “wholly unsatisfactory” the Centre’s submission on the issue of setting up a search committee for the Lokpal and demanded a “better affidavit” within four weeks.
Earlier this month, the Lokpal selection committee, headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, held its meeting to set up a search panel for recommending names for the appointment of the Lokpal and its members.
The Congress nominee Mallikarjun Kharge, who is special invitee” to the selection committee, did not attend it. In a letter to the Prime Minister, Kharge said he will not attend the meeting till the time the leader of the single largest opposition party is made a full-fledged member of the panel.
On this, Hegde said “one man can’t hold the committee for ransom”, and added that the government should go ahead on the issue of Lokpal appointment. “It can’t be used an excuse”.
“That’s the impression anybody would get”, Hegde said when asked if he felt the government is deliberately delaying the appointment process but hastened to add that he is blaming every party as none of them wants a strong ombudsman-institution.
Citing examples, he said the institution of Lokayukta has been weakened after the Congress came to power in Karnataka in 2014 and also talked about the recent dilution of powers of the institution in Tamil Nadu and West Bengal.
“I blame every political party; they don’t want a strong ombudsman-institution,” Hegde added.