Activist lawyer Prashant Bhushan is well-known for his fiery and fearless arguments inside and outside of court. He is a member of the 10-member panel constituted earlier this month to draft a Lokpal, or ombudsman, bill to tackle corruption in government offices. His father, former law minister Shanti Bhushan, is the co-chair of the panel.
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Students shout anti-corruption slogans in support of social activist, Anna Hazare.
The father-son duo has been in news more recently for a CD purportedly containing a recording of the elder Mr. Bhushan’s conversing with political leaders regarding fixing a judge. Other allegations also surfaced against them in Indian news reports. Both the Bhushans have questioned the authenticity of the CD and denied any wrongdoing.
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At a conference Wednesday evening, the junior Mr. Bhushan dwelt on the nature of Indian democracy and the wide-spread corruption that bedevils it, in perhaps his first major public anti-corruptions remark since he found himself accused of corruption.
Speaking at the All India Anti-Corruption Summit organized by global corruption watchdog Transparency International India and a civil society group called 5th Pillar, Mr. Bhushan first spoke on the economics of corruption. He said contrary to the belief that the liberalization of the economy would help reduce corruption by doing away with License Raj, it has increased by leaps and bounds since the 1991 reforms.
“What you have done is create huge demand for corruption and monstrous corporations which have assets of tens of lakhs of crores [millions of rupees] in Swiss accounts. They have managed to corrupt the whole system,” he said. “Every institution has become puppets in the hands of corporations.”
Mr. Bhushan said that this demand side of corruption needed to be tackled first for the success of the Lokpal, which can only check the supply side of the corruption: “This is an issue which needs to be simultaneously tackled.”
“The reason why corruption has been proliferating in this country is because on the one hand we have adopted policies which have created huge incentives for corruption,” said Mr. Bhushan, who did not discuss the allegations leveled against his father or himself, in his remarks. “On the other hand, we have allowed all our anti-corruption institutions to wither away and be totally ineffective.”
By anti-corruption institutions, Mr. Bhushan said he meant federal agencies like the Central Bureau of Investigation, the Central Vigilance Commission and the judiciary.
He said the Lokpal is “envisaged as a totally independent institution whose selection process will be such so as to ensure to the maximum extent possible that the people who will be selected will be independent, strong, robust and they will have the power of investigating everybody–including judges, prime minister. They will have the power of even prosecution.”
But ultimately, Mr. Bhushan said, tackling corruption hinges upon how democracy is perceived in India. He said India’s current form of representative democracy, where voting is the main form of democratic participation, is a truncated form of democracy, yet people have come to think of it as a real democracy.
Real democracy, he said, is more participatory, and requires that even apart from election time, “people themselves take decisions which affect them.” He said activist Anna Hazare’s recent movement against corruption was an instance of that.
“We have to think about institutionalizing participatory democracy,” said Mr. Bhushan.
Fuente: India Real Time