The Lokpal bill is getting weaker by the day, and the civil society’s demand for a strong anti-corruption watchdog looks more like a pipe dream. This time, the blow has come from the Union law ministry.
On Thursday, the law ministry advocated that officials in the prime ministers office should be kept out of the purview of the proposed law on matters related to national security — both internal and external.
Replying to the clarifications sought by the Rajya Sabha select committee on Lokpal bill, the law ministry stressed that there was a need to change the draft of the bill to protect officials of the PMO from being questioned on sensitive issues on which the prime minister himself is exempted.
Clarifying its stand, the ministry said, “All protection will be given to officials who were dealing with issues pertaining to national security, nuclear energy but the secretariat will be open for probe.”
Confirming the development, chairman of the committee Satyavrat Chaturvedi told DNA, “There is a need to take a rational view on who and how officials would get protection.”
The panel members also agreed with a suggestion that people who handle sensitive subjects should enjoy
immunity. However, AIADMK MP V Maitreyan clarified that the
immunity would be related only to security issues, and not extend to other areas for the same officials who hold other charges as well.
In a presentation before the committee early this month, the law ministry had agreed that the bill should be amended, since making a law in accordance with Article 253 may not be in harmony with the constitutional scheme.
“Parliament has the power to make any law for the whole of India for implementing any treaty, agreement or convention with any other country or countries,” states the Article 253 of the Constitution.
The ministry has also cautioned against the amendment moved by minister of state V Narayanasamy in the Rajya Sabha on May 22 that maximum flexibility be provided to states for setting up Lokayuktas.