UPA keeps PM, judiciary out of Lokpal purview;
New Delhi, July 28
Three months after Hazare-led civil society initiated a movement for a stronger Lokpal Bill, the Union Cabinet at its meeting chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh approved the draft, which keeps the office of Prime Minister outside its purview during his term in office and also excludes higher judiciary and conduct of MPs inside Parliament.
The Prime Minister would come under the purview of the Lok Pal after demitting his office.
Another controversial point added to the Bill is that a complaint of corruption made after seven years of the date of the committing of such a crime would not be entertained by the
The draft of the Bill has been rejected by Team Anna which says that the Bill was not in favour of the common man and that the government had cheated them.
However, the government said the Bill has included some of the provisions of the Jan Lokpal Bill proposed by Team Anna and gives permission to the Lokpal to probe any Union Minister or officials of Group A and above without any sanction.
The higher judiciary has not been included under the Lokpal; but will come under the Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill.
The Lokpal will have separate wings for inquiry and investigation but no power to prosecute. The prosecution will be done by judiciary.
Briefing newsmen after the prolonged Union Cabinet meeting, which discussed the Lok Pal Bill at length before giving its approval, Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni said the proposed office of Lok Pal would have a chairperson and eight members --- 50 per cent of them will be from the judiciary, including the chairperson, who has to be a serving or retired Chief Justice of India or a Supreme Court judge.
Soni, who addressed the media along with Law Minister Salman Khursheed and Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office V. Narayanasamy, said qualifications have been laid down for the non-judicial members of the panel.
“The non-judiciary members have to be persons of impeccable integrity and outstanding ability,” she said.
The removal of the Lokpal will be the prerogative of the President. At the meeting, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh insisted that his office be included in the legislation, but the Cabinet decided otherwise, Narayanasamy said.
He said the Prime Minister was heard with “great respect” but the ministers discussed the “pitfalls” of such a proposal, including its possible adverse effect on the stability of a government and creation of uncertainty.
The Bill will be introduced in Parliament in the first two days of the monsoon session beginning August one.
Soni said that as part of the government’s resolve to bring in greater accountability and transparency, the Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill, Whistle Blowers Protection Bill and the CVC Bill would also be brought before Parliament.
Khursheed said the Lokpal will not investigate a complaint which has been made seven years after the committing of the crime.
It is for the standing committee to see if the period needs to be increased or decreased, he said.
When asked to comment on the proposed fast by Hazare, Khursheed said once the Bill has been presented in Parliament, it would be up to Parliament to decide on its further course.
“Anyone, who challenges this procedure, is not challenging government but the Parliament of the country,” he said. Khursheed said the government had accepted 34 of 40 principles given by the civil society members during discussions in the joint drafting committee.
In a statement issued after the Cabinet meeting, the government said, “The Lokpal shall inquire into allegations of corruption made in respect of Prime Minister, after he has demitted office; a Union Minister; a Member of Parliament; any Group 'A' officer or equivalent; chairperson or member or officer equivalent to Group 'A' in any body/ Board/ corporation/ authority/ company/ society/ trust/ autonomous body established by an Act of Parliament or wholly or partly financed or controlled by the Central Government; any director, manager, secretary or other officer of a society or association of persons or trust wholly or partly financed or aided by the Government or in receipt of any donations from the public and whose annual income exceeds such amount as the Central Government may by notification specify”.
However, the organisations created for religious purposes and receiving public donations would be outside the purview of Lokpal.
The Lokpal shall not require sanction or approval under Section 197 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 or Section 19 of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, in cases where prosecution is proposed, the statement said, adding that the Lokpal will also have powers to attach the property of corrupt public servants.