Dr. Abhishek Singhvi, MP and Spokesperson AICC, Prof. Rajeev Gowda, MP and Spokesperson AICC and Shri R.P.N. Singh, Spokesperson AICC and former Union Minister addressed the media.Dr. Singhvi said dilution of anti-corruption laws in a systematic consistent manner post 2014.Dr. Singhvi said the first issue is a rather serious one and I will be very brief because the material which we will furnish you is very-very in depth solid research and we do not talk through our hat, we don’t talk in ‘Jumlas’ and we don’t talk in slogans and rhetoric. The first issue is a systematic consistent, periodic and continuous dilution of the principal anti-corruption laws and I will touch briefly on four examples.
The first is the Whistle-blower’s Act. I was intrigued to find that I was the Chair of the Committee, which recommended the basic structure of this Act. The Whistle-blower’s Act in 2014, contrary to what the UPA, in its outgoing phase recommended, which passed through Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha was amended in 2014 and the principal strategy adopted of diluting it, virtually swallowing it up, is by making a category which was excluded from disclosure.
A list of ten items under the Amendment, the 10 items are so broad, so subjective that the so-called exceptions will swallow the rule. It will make whistle blowing nugatory. So, you need to allow whistle blowing if first, it affects the sovereignty and integrity of India. The words are very wide. You do have sovereignty, security in the Constitution, but not such words, security, strategic, scientific or economic interest of the State. What kind of wording is this? That means you can prevent any whistle blowing. Cabinet papers including records of the Council of Ministers, of Secretaries of the Government and all other officers is very wide. Using a peg which is known to law, you have expanded it completely precisely, for the exception to swallow the rule. Information that has been expressly forbidden by a Court or contempt, that is alright, no problem. If the information would cause a breach of privilege; There is no anticipatory breach of privilege of Parliament. Parliament will decide whether it is a breach of privilege. It is not the Government Officers sitting here who will decide in advance, that you will not allow whistle blowing, because he thinks that Parliament may hall it up for breach of privilege. Look at the width of this that relates to commercial confidence, trade secrets, intellectual property, almost everything will be covered if you use such broad words. I have got 7 other examples, I do not want you to take to details, the paper will tell you.
The first important point is The Whistle Blowers Act – our Government, our Standing Committee and then the Parliament passed it. We brought it up, it was our idea because in all developed countries and many other countries, it is a major weapon in the fight against corruption. Whistle blowing, which has the twin objectives of protecting the whistle-blower and allowing access to important information which leads to and involves corruption and proof of corruption, is the heart and soul of an anti-corruption campaign. This Government is used to ‘Jumlas’, to making tall claims, but the reality, the difference between fact and fiction, between rhetoric and reality is that they have by the Amendment, reduced the scope almost to vanishing point. And how do you blow the whistle at all after this Act, is a matter of great mystery.
The second example is the very important – Lok Pal Act and again coincidentally our Committee with 31 Members and 17 Parties, passed a near unanimous recommendation on that. Shri Modi has successfully done at the Central Government, precisely what he did for 12 long years, as the Chief Minister of Gujarat.
We passed it, we brought it in the Committee. We then brought it from the Committee to Parliament. In 2011, after our Committee report, which was done in a record four months, with almost 150 witnesses and several hours of evidence. It was delayed in Rajya Sabha, by the BJP. It got it again referred in May 2012 to a Select Committee. The Select Committee report comes in the end of 2012 and finally the Bill is ascended and brought into force during our time in the end of 2013 and 2014. Even the delay from 2012 to 2014 was by the daily obstruction by BJP. And remember how they rode ‘piggy-back’ on the man whom they called an ‘old man’ Mr. Anna Hazare. They rode ‘piggy back’, they abused us, they used vituperative adjectives.
Now you reach 2014. From 2014 when Mr. Modi took over – for almost 36 months – he has tried everything available not to promulgate and put into operation this Act. Two examples and I do not want to quote to you Ms. Sushma Swaraj who said in those days before she was in Government, ‘an old man’ who keeps fasting to fight corruption and appeals to our collective conscious, the UPA let him down. And 36 months inaction, silence now.
Mr. Jaitley said, if fears and fair anger is there because the government UPA wants a ‘Sarkari Lokpal – the UPA is acting like a child’. These are people who spoke then and who are the Ministers who have done nothing for three long years, because no one dares open his mouth.
One objection takes a 30 second Amendment – one line 30 second amendment, to say the ‘single largest party’. The excuse of the NDA is amazing. It is the most precious and superficial of excuses I have heard that there is no LoP and the Act, because when it was passed, it was not anticipated that there would be 44 persons. The Act uses the word ‘LoP’. Therefore, we cannot operationalize because there is no LoP. Instead they have brought two other Amendments. They could have easily got this Amendment. They brought other amendments to the Lokpal Act, they (a) avoided bringing this Amendment and (b) they brought retrograde Amendments to the Lokpal Act. One major change they brought was in Section 44 which said every public servant must declare his assets and those of his spouse and dependent children. They have changed that altogether and said, that they will be required to disclose as the Government may prescribe. So, from a statutory status of disclosure, mandatory obligatory disclosure in the statute, it is now a Governmental executive prescription which may leave out what they like in the prescription. They made this very significant Amendment saying single largest party can nominate. Result is, we have no Lokpal after three years. Is it not utter hypocrisy and from 2001 to 2013 till Mr. Modi left Gujarat, he did everything possible to ensure that there would be no Lokpal in Gujarat.
The Hon’ble Supreme Court in that matter when the Gujarat Government and I have got the names, we took a briefing on this, I took the briefing myself. How it went in those days in Gujarat from the original Mr. Justice Soni in 2003, Mr. Justice Vyas in 2006, nobody became a Lokpal – all blocked – nominated by either Chief Justice or by the other consultee but never appointed by Mr. Modi. Then Mr. Soni and Justice Vyas went, then Justice Vora, then Justice Dhokalia and you reach 2011. And finally, when Justice Mehta was appointed in 2011, the Gujarat Government in an unprecedented action, went in Writ Petition. The Government filed a Writ Petition; normally a private citizen files a Writ Petition which travelled to Hon’ble Supreme Court saying why Justice Mehta should not be appointed. That judgment has passed strong remarks and strictures against those in authority who tried to avoid accountability through Lokpal. And then said you must appoint. Unfortunately, Mr. Modi got his view again because no self-respecting man would take up Local or Lookout as the case may be in Gujarat and Mr. Mehta wrote a long letter expressing his deep pain and anguish and resigned. Then Mr. Modi came here. So exactly what he did there, he is doing here. That is Lokpal for you.
Prevention of Corruption Act is the third example – Prevention of Corruption act, was a very old Act which our Government in 1988 consolidated and made into a new Act and the 88 Act was much wider than the original version of the 1940s and 1950s. Now in the 1988 Act, one of the crucial provisions which is now being diluted was that a public servant can be punished for accepting or attempting to obtain any reward for performing its function improperly. That is the heart and soul of that Act. It is inter alia Section 7 but there are other provisions in it. Now they have said this will not apply unless it is shown that he acted dishonestly. A very wide exemption is brought it in. It is virtually impossible in the way the Section is worded, to prove that which makes a big-big escape route and actually again just like the first example I gave of the Whistle-blowers Act, creates an exception which swallows the rule. The intent is to allow gate ways, to allow passages which will make corrupt people get away free. Remember, each of these are our initiatives, which are diluted.
Dr Singhvi said, it legitimizes legally a way of huge political donations without transparency. If you are allowing me to give you Rs. 50,000 crores as a Corporate House, the only question we are asking is why you are not allowing the country to know who it is. We know you are biases, we know your dialectics, we know your preferences. Allow us to know.
That ultimately, this is the height of hypocrisy, double standards, it is the height of selectivity, it is shamelessness actually and just yesterday, yet again we hear our Hon’ble Prime Minister giving us sermons from the pull pit about eradication of corruption. Does not our Prime Minister see his own Party President? Do you think what you saw in the last two weeks in Gujarat, was happening because tea leaves and fresh air was being dangled. Do you think that the expenditure of Uttar Pradesh came from cheques cut for electioneering? You do not see anything there. But anytime there is the slightest tactical violation, you have all the agencies. So, I would request the NDA, I would request our Prime Minister to look backwards, to look inside, to look inwards and do not preach without practice. Do not have this ‘chasm’ between your words and your deeds.
Prof. Rajeev Gowda said I would like to follow up what on what my senior colleague Dr. Singhvi has shared with you and point out that we have documents that we will be sharing with you today – one page Press Release – on all that we have talked out and by e-mail. We don’t kill thousands of trees because the nature of criminal records, the nature of scams that we are going to share with you, adds up too many-many hundreds of pages.
Now first – the issue of criminal cases against BJP MPs and Ministers – this is evidence that is there in the Affidavits that have been filed by these candidates when they stood for election. There may be many more scams and criminal cases against after that, but this focus is what they themselves have revealed. I want to remind you that Prime Minister Mr. Modi in his first speech here, talked about how he would fast track criminal cases and ensure that within six months, those people including MPs from his own Party, would be tackled, action would be taken against them and that the cases would be closed. It is now three years. What happened to that promise Mr. Modi. How come those criminals continue to sit in Parliament and sit in your Ministry? From this document, you will see the list of criminal cases taken from the Affidavit data.
Similarly, the Research Department which I head, has come up with a white paper on the systematic weakening of anti-corruption laws. He has talked about them. I want to add one point – the Electoral Bonds. There are two aspects there – one is about the anonymity of donations Rs 20,000 to Rs 2,000, how it has been brought down, but that makes no difference whatsoever. But the basic point is in a democracy you want to be able to follow the money. You want to know who has contributed to whom and what the end result in terms of policy change is. What the Electoral Bond’s proposal does is, it eliminates that, shouts everything in secrecy. How much ever money they make and they take and they can coerce using all the new powers given to Income Tax officials. None of us will be wiser; none of us will be able to question them and day this is what you took from this person or that person. We are objecting to that anonymity, it is against the interest of transparency and level playing field in democracy.
Third document that we are releasing is the BJP’s involvement in scams. This is something that will go on and on. We have organized this according to States. Chhattisgarh, the first one is CM’s son, our Lok Sabha colleague Abhishek Singh’s involvement in the Panama Papers Leak. Recently we have done a Press Conference about Forest Land grabbing by Mr. Aggarwal, the Minister there. We had the PDS Scam and the MNREGA Scam, Sand Scam.
Maharashtra, we have recently did a Press Conference on numerous scams involving multiple Ministers. The housing Minister and the Sum Rehabilitation scam. So, we have organized these according to series. That is the level of scams that have been taking place which the Prime Minister for all that information that he receives in this highly centralized Government, somehow this information seems to elude him. We want to make sure and through you, the Nation, we want to make sure is aware of the extent the depth and the magnitude of the scams that are going on across the length and the breadth of the country under the ‘BJP Sarkar’s’. Karnataka, we have already mentioned. You can remember that we also had at the height of demonetization a 500 Crore wedding hosted by one of our Reddy Brothers who is very-very famous in the country. Gujarat – we have the GSPC scam, the Bank Scam, Fishery scam, Land allotment scam. Numerous scams in Rajasthan that are coming out all the time. Going back to Lalit Gate and other such issues – Madhya Pradesh VYAPAM has already been mentioned. And this is material that we will also share with you.
And so finally, I want to point out that you will get these three documents – one on criminal cases on which no action has taken place – A white paper on the weakening of anti-corruption laws and finally this list of scams that we have been able to uncover so far. And we ask and urge Mr. Modi, to end the hypocrisy to please match actions to the words that he periodically tries to entice the people with when he says that he is fighting against corruption. The record shows that his fight against corruption, the action level is absolutely Zero and until he takes action against his own colleagues and demonstrates how he is able to send them to jail, we will not believe and that Nation will not believe a word further that he utters on the issue of corruption.