M A I N   N E W S

Lokpal Bill tabled in LS; Team Anna burns copies
BJP opposes PM’s exclusion
Aditi Tandon/Faraz Ahmad
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 4
The government today introduced the Lokpal Bill in the Lok Sabha today amid protests by the BJP inside Parliament and the Anna Hazare group on streets outside. Anna burnt copies of the Bill in dejection over its “weak” provisions.

As soon as V Narayanswamy, MoS, Ministry of Personnel, introduced the Bill providing for a Lokpal to investigate corruption complaints against ministers; MPs (expect for what they say or do inside the House); and all under-secretary (and above) level officers, the BJP questioned its constitutional validity for excluding the Prime Minister.

“Our Constitution treats everyone equally. If the IPC, CrPC and the Prevention of Corruption Act cover the PM, why should the Lokpal Bill grant him immunity? The PM is no holy cow. We seek his inclusion and won’t allow the Bill in this form,” Leader of Opposition in the LS Sushma Swaraj said after Speaker Meira Kumar allowed her to raise objections as a special case.

Though Sushma reminded the government that the BJP under Atal Bihari Vajpayee had agreed to include the PM under the Lokpal after the Pranab Mukherjee-led Standing Committee on Home recommended so, Mukherjee rebutted her: “I gave the report on February 16, 2002. What prevented your government from passing the law for two years?”

Pranab tore into the moral high ground Sushma took by saying Vajpayee had rested the controversy by offering to be covered by the Lokpal while he was the PM and had said the Bill would be ineffective if the PM was left out.

The government added that the Bill would now go to the standing committee that could make changes and Parliament could consider them. Later in the day, Home Minister P Chidambaram and HRD Minister Kapil Sibal attacked the BJP for doublespeak, saying several states that they rule don’t have Lokayuktas with jurisdiction over the Chief Ministers.

“Many BJP-led states like Gujarat have either not appointed a Lokayukta or have excluded the CM. In UP, the CM’s office is not covered by the Lokayukta, it’s so in Bihar and Jharkhand also where the BJP is in power,” Sibal said. Chidambaram claimed the Bill didn’t grant immunity to the PM and only gave him temporary eclipse. On its constitutional validity, he said it was for the court to interpret Article 14 of the Constitution.

The Bill provides for the establishment of a Lokpal with chairperson and eight members, 50 pc of them being judicial members; it says Lokpal will have its own investigation and prosecution wing to probe complaints under the PCA, 1988, against public functionaries. It will entertain complaints (not later than seven years of commission) even against organisations fully or partially funded by the government. The PM would be covered only after he demits office.

The Lokpal will have nine members with a chairperson (a retired Chief Justice of India or SC judge) and judicial members (retired Chief Justices of HCs). Non judicial member are defined as “a persons of impeccable integrity and with not less than 25 years experience in anti-corruption policy, public administration, vigilance, finance including insurance and banking, law and management”. No member can hold office of profit. Only the President can remove Lokpal members after an SC inquiry.

A nine-member selection committee under the PM will appoint Lokpal members; they can set up a search committee to shortlist candidates. A Lokpal will, within 30 days to three months, see if a complaint makes for a prima facie case; if it does, inquiry would have to end in six months or reasons recorded for delay.

When convinced, the Lokpal will refer the case to special courts for disposal and recommend disciplinary action to the competent authorities - like the LS Speaker in case of MPs. The Speaker (or the Rajya Sabha Chairman) will report back about the disciplinary action proposed within 90 days (excluding the time when Parliament is not in session). Special courts, which the Centre will set up, will have to decide cases in a year of filing.





HOME PAGE | Punjab | Haryana | Jammu & Kashmir | Himachal Pradesh | Regional Briefs | Nation | Opinions |
| Business | Sports | World | Letters | Chandigarh | Ludhiana | Delhi |
| Calendar | Weather | Archive | Subscribe | E-mail |