Justice Sawant’s remarks on Anna Hazare

“When the social power is used irresponsibly, or to subvert the constitutional authority, it is hardly distinguishable from terror.”

The Maharashtra state government instituted a Commission of Inquiry under Justice P B Sawant, in September 2003 to inquire into allegations of corruption and maladministration against several people, among them Anna Hazare. The Commission submitted its report on February 22, 2005 and has been placed online (by Sampath Bulusu on June 8, 2010).

It goes into the minutae of the allegations and a cursory reading suggests how the enormity of red tape might cause people—like Anna Hazare—acting in good faith to commit technical violations of the law. Justice Sawant dismisses most of the allegations against Mr Hazare, but finds his trust acting illegally in at least one matter (see pages 269-271). The message is clear and ironic in the light of Mr Hazare’s demand for more bureaucracy and more laws: government encroachment on the citizen’s economic freedom creates a cesspool that criminalises ordinary citizens, that in turn breeds official corruption.

If we see Mr Hazare as an ordinary person—as this blog does—these transgressions are minor, excusable and should not cause us to doubt his personal integrity. Those who believe in the extraordinariness of Mr Hazare, however, should introspect.

That apart, Justice Sawant’s comments on Mr Hazare’s method of fighting corruption need more attention. Given that the latter is at the forefront of a movement to create an all-powerful super-watchdog, it is germane to look into his previous record.

6. There is no doubt that the participation in elections is not the end-all of the citizen’s role in democracy. The mere fact that the citizens have the power to change the government or to replace their representative by another in the next election, does not prevent them from exercising their other democratic rights during the period between the two elections. It is a mistake to believe that the only duty of the citizens in the democratic governance is to exercise their right to vote. The right to vote is only one of the democratic rights of the citizens. The citizens have a fundamental right to participate in the day to day governance of the society.

The mode and manner such participation may vary and may include all peaceful activities from petitioning to the government to taking out processions to register protests or to demand particular actions. The citizens may also undertake constructive activities, with or without the assistance of the government to improve the conditions and quality of the social life. Both the agitational and the constructive activities have become necessary in the present democratic societies, since the so-called democratic societies have limited democracy and that too only in their political life. Beyond the right to vote and the right to contest in the elections,the political democracy confers no other right. In the absence of the social and economic democracy, even the rights to elect and to get elected remain on paper for a majority of the people. With the enormous social and economic inequalities which are growing everyday, the right to vote itself may be manipulated, while the right to contest elections has become the preserve of the wealthy few. Thus, the equality, which is the basis of democracy, does not exist even in the formal political process.

7. This is because the so-called democracy as has been practised, has made no change to the class-structure of the society. On the other hand,it has deepened and widened the class distinctions. The ruling class is not interested in bringing about the social and economic democracy. On the other hand, since it can survive and thrive only on social and economic inequalities, it is interested in perpetuating them. Hence,the work by the civil organisations aimed at reducing the inequalities and their harsh social consequences, becomes all the more necessary.

The agitational activities have however to be carried on by observing certain norms. Not only have they to be peaceful, but also legal. A care has also to be taken to see that they do not lead to anti-social activities or become extra-constitutional centres of power. Such a development will itself encourage lawlessness and spell out the end of the rule of law. The mode of agitation has further to vary according to its object and the social conditions obtaining at the time. Else,it will not only not achieve its object but will prove counter-productive. It has to be remembered that the agitational activities also constitute a social power, which is as much liable to be abused as the political power. When the social power is used irresponsibly, or to subvert the constitutional authority, it is hardly distinguishable from terror.

8. When instead of the system, the individuals are targeted by the public agitation, several untoward consequences follow. As the present inquiry has revealed, while making the allegations of corruption,the complainant Shri. Hajare relies exclusively on the information supplied to him by his workers or on the contents of the representations made to him by the discontented. The information thus made available may not all be disinterested and may be motivated by various considerations, including personal, political and corrupt. In any case, such information coming from whatever source it may, has to be verified at least by giving an opportunity to the person against whom the complaint is made. This is an elementary precaution which has to be taken before making the individual a target of agitation.

As has been admitted by Shri. Hajare, the persons against whom he receives complaints, are not even intimated by him about them. They have, therefore, no opportunity to reply to the charges in the complaints. Shri. Hajare gave two reasons for dispensing with the said basic requirement viz. that this Andolan has no funds to call for the explanations from the concerned individuals, and secondly, his team of lawyers clears the complaints before the agitation is started. The first reason is both strange and indefensible, while the second is as much unjustified.

If the movement against corruption, which he has started, does not have sufficient funds even for the postal correspondence with the persons concerned, certainly he cannot make the targeted individuals suffer on that account. It is further not his case that even his lawyers give an opportunity to the persons concerned to explain the charges against them before they clear the complaints for agitation.

It must be realised that when persons like Shri. Hajare who have come to be respected by the society on account of their laudable work in other fields, publicly accuse any person for his misdemeanour, the people come to believe it intrinsically, and the person concerned earns a social odium for life-time, even if later he comes to be cleared of the charges. There have been cases where persons have been victimised either by public or private complaints, at the strategic moments in their life and career. The blackmailers, in particular, take advantage of such situation.The adequate precautions, which even otherwise are a must, become all the more necessary in such movements.The social power should not become or allowed to become an engine of oppression of the innocent. [Justice G B Sawant Report pp22-24, emphasis added]

3 thoughts on “Justice Sawant’s remarks on Anna Hazare”

  1. Nitin very true. Many of our ‘activists’ have feet of clay at best or are so crooked that they make A Raja look like a saint.

    Here is another report on a worthy who will, in all probability end up on the lokpal for being an ‘outstanding activist’

  2. Corruption can not be addressed properly without amending our constitution. Abolish the Income Tax, Sales Tax Stamp duty etc., and introduce one single tax TURN OVER TAX. Abolish Civil servants recruitments, they do not carry the mandate of the people but enjoy the power for life. PM and CM should be elected by the people direct only for two terms, just like US President. The elected MLAs and MPS should be Chairperson of State and Central Government offices of their constituency. These MLAs and MPs can not succeed on subsequent elections if their rule is bad. ‘Frustrated Indian Layman 2010’ eBook by S.N.Murthy Amazon Kindle. The suitable reforms are discussed.

    In India, people are god fearing and polite and democratic. India sustained the invaders from Arab and Europe. Indian society did not take arms against tyrants. Indians are welcome throughout the world for their politeness. . Our constitution is full of defects. Mostly it is run by the Civil Servants and they do not carry mandate from the people but enjoy power for life. The corruption is kept alive by the Civil Servants only. Whereas the elected body like MLAs and MPs have to spend lot of money for their election. Since money is involved, the opportunists grab. We have to rewrite our constitution so that people’s direct mandate is necessary on any new policy, determined by referendum often.

  3. Justice Sawant has brought out that the political class is interested in perpetuating disparity in social and economic inequalities. He also states that it is the right of civil society in “….reducing the inequalities and their harsh social consequences, …”.

    There is no denying that the constitution cannot be subverted while exercising this right to bring about change. Anna Hazare seems to have been guilty of following the wrong methods. Even his detractors will agree it was not willful or intentional deceit. Compare this to the behaviour of our democratically elected representatives who have subverted the constitution in much greater measure and are then adding insult to injury by using the fig leaf of the constitution to defend their right to carry on ‘business’ as usual.

    All those who criticise Hazare’s methods have a valid point and he needs to be criticised and corrected to mend his ways. When will they also bell the corrupt ‘systemic’ cat? And suggest concrete methods to do so when they see that the constitution is being openly subverted, at will, and the corrupt are enjoying a free ride? Where is the law and where is the enforcer? Who will make them function and how? More importantly when will all this happen? Another 42 years?

    “When the social power is used irresponsibly, or to subvert the constitutional authority, it is hardly distinguishable from terror.” Justice Sawant.

    It may be an indictment of Hazare’s methods. It is also certainly more an indictment of our current situation.

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