Thursday, July 18, 2024

“I feel AAP is no different from the BJP”- Advocate Prashant Bhushan in an Exclusive Interview

Written and edited by- Robin Bhuyan

Interviewed by- Mohsin Khaiyam

A renowned Supreme Court lawyer and a dedicated anti-corruption activist, Prashant Bhushan is quite a well-known name in the political scenario of India. His unwavering courage has been a driving force not only in his pursuit of justice but also in his brave criticism of the government and the Indian judiciary.

During the Gandhian activist Anna Hazare’s India Against Corruption movement in 2011, Prashant Bhushan rose to prominence. Bhushan was also one of the founding members of the Aam Aadmi Party, which he later quit as he felt that the party had deviated from its core ideologies. Bhushan later founded the Swaraj Abhiyan, a party that aims to achieve Swaraj in all aspects of Indian society.

Prashant Bhushan gained attention in 2020 after his comments about the functioning of the Supreme Court. He was fined 1 rupee by the court due to his remarks, which garnered a huge debate about the role of free speech and criticism in a democratic society. Bhushan is also among the few people who has been critical of the COVID restrictions and mandates, and he feels that they are not just unnecessary but also harmful for human health and society in the long run.

Join us in this exclusive interview with the man as we chat with him to understand his vision, his thoughts about the ruling government in Delhi as well as India, and his thoughts on the COVID situation, which has made an unforgettable impact in all our lives.

The current government came to power with promises of removing corrupting and bringing back black money. Do you think they have been successful in keeping any of these promises?

In my view, absolutely not. They have not succeeded in bringing back any black money or eliminating corruption. In fact, they are undermining anti-corruption agencies, using them for their own agenda, including the CBI, the Lokpal, and the Enforcement Directorate, among others.

We can also observe a troubling trend. The Enforcement Directorate conducts raids on opposition leaders, but as soon as they join the BJP, they are pardoned. Furthermore, the current government has institutionalised corruption by introducing electoral bonds, enabling anonymous political donations. I suspect that a significant portion of these donations may be bribes funnelled to political parties in exchange for fulfilling specific contracts. No substantial amount of black money has returned, and there has been no action taken against individuals like Nirav Modi or Vijay Mallya, who have syphoned off vast sums from Indian banks. They have escaped justice simply because they are close to the government.

The Newsclick episode is gaining national and international attention. What is your opinion on this?

I believe the charges against Newsclick under the UAPA are baseless. Even if a Chinese company were to be the source of their funding, I don’t see anything inherently wrong or illegal about it. They are also alleged to have provided legal support to certain Chinese telecom companies and covered the farmers’ protests, which, in my view, are not crimes. What’s actually happening is an attempt to intimidate independent media. While the government has effectively brought most mainstream media under its control, many journalists have started their own independent news portals, particularly on the internet and social media. I feel these raids are an effort to extend their influence to independent outlets as well.

You were part of the India Against Corruption movement over a decade ago, in 2011. Do you believe that the movement has achieved any success?

Unfortunately, no. The movement aimed to establish a Lokpal, which was eventually appointed. However, it has not brought about significant change. One could argue that the BJP exploited the anti-corruption movement to gain power, but once in office, they failed to fulfil their promises of retrieving black money and eradicating corruption.

We’d like to ask your opinion about the Aam Aadmi Party. Do you believe they have fared better than the BJP in the centre?

Well, I don’t think so. I believe the AAP is following a similar playbook as the BJP. It appears to be more about show than action. While they have introduced some changes in education and healthcare, such as Mohalla clinics, they don’t differ significantly from the BJP. Like the BJP, they seem to prioritise showing off over substantial action.

Regarding the new INDIA alliance formed by opposition parties, do you think parties like the TMC and Congress can coexist?

I don’t think most of them will manage to coexist, but some of the major parties should be able to do so.

As a lawyer who has been critical of the judiciary, what, in your opinion, are the major challenges in the Indian judicial system?

There are several changes needed. The process for appointing judges needs improvement. While the Supreme Court’s role in selecting judges is better than the government’s, it still fails to attract the best talent. What we require is an independent, government-free, full-time commission for judicial appointments. Additionally, a robust system for holding the judiciary accountable is essential.

We’ve experienced around two years of COVID-related restrictions. Do you believe there was a legal basis for these measures and mandates? Many people felt coerced into taking the shot, but the government later claimed it was not mandatory. What is your perspective on this?

My perspective is that COVID wasn’t as dire as it was made out to be. I think extensive lockdowns, restrictions, and mask mandates were unnecessary. The unwarranted panic and fear resulted in numerous fatalities. Treating it as a severe flu season might have been a more reasonable approach. As for the shots, they are largely untested, and potential long-term side effects remain unknown. Moreover, since the shot does not prevent transmission, there is no basis for any mandates.

We can witness the rise of AI in almost every sector. Do you believe AI will impact the judicial system?

Yes, artificial intelligence will soon have a substantial influence in all sectors. AI may eventually create far better judges, similar to how it can provide more accurate medical diagnoses than human doctors. So, yes, we will definitely see a change in the future!

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