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Accord on Lokpal Bill to bring it to RS

Tuesday, 20 November 2012 - 8:43am IST | Place: New Delhi | Agency: dna
Parl panel agreed on sticky points; states free to set up own Lokayuktas.

After 43 years, the Lokpal is set to be a reality.
A parliamentary committee, which scrutinised the Lokpal bill referred to it by the Rajya Sabha, has found a common ground between political parties on contentious issues, namely including the prime minister under its purview and allowing a partial control of the CBI.

A parliamentary affairs ministry source said the report of the committee, headed by Congress MP Satyavrat Chaturvedi, will be tabled in the Rajya Sabha on Friday, the second day of the month-long parliament session.

Though Chaturvedi is the chairman, the government is trying to rope in Arun Jaitley, leader of the opposition in the Rajya Sabha, to table the report in the house in his capacity as the vice-chairman as it would show unanimity on the matter.

The BJP, sources say, will press for the immediate passage of the bill, rather than it being referred again to the cabinet for the final executive approval. Once passed, the bill will return  to the Lok Sabha as its approval is required on the many changes made by the committee.

The committee has upheld the provision in the original
bill that “not less than 50% of the members of Lokpal would be from SC, ST, OBC, minorities and women”, stressing that it only indicates “the quantum of representation and not
reservation”. 

It says “these provisions merely aim at providing representation to the diverse sections of the society in the institution of Lokpal”.
The draft report has, however, one “dissenting note” each from the BJP and the Left. The BJP, in the last committee meeting on Monday, gave its note opposing the “representation” provision.
The Left MPs demanded the inclusion of the private sector within the Lokpal’s ambit. Both the suggestions did not find support from other members.

In the latest draft, every state will have to set up the institution of Lokayuktas within a year from the date of notification of the Lokpal bill, treating it as a model bill.

The states shall have absolute freedom to decide the nature and powers of the institution.

The final draft of the bill has not acceded to the civil society activists’ demand for the CBI’s independence by putting it under the proposed Lokpal and also giving powers to the Lokpal to prosecute bureaucrats without requiring the government’s consent.

The autonomy of the CBI has been retained, but at the same time its functional control and superintendence will remain in the Lokpal’s hands only in cases it is asked to inquire into by the ombudsman.

The select committee has also provided a separate directorate of prosecution for the Lokpal, but with a proviso that it will also report to the CBI chief whose agency probes the corruption cases on its behalf.

Sources say the committee has also suggested a mechanism to include the prime minister, the leader of the opposition in the Lok Sabha and the chief justice and to finalise names for the appointment of the CBI director.

It has also advocated for a fixed tenure of the CBI chief and financial autonomy for him. Differences on who selects the Lokpal have been sorted out. The president will initiate the impeachment proceedings for removal of the Lokpal only if a petition is signed by at least 100 MPs.

The Lokpal gets a free hand to sanction preliminary inquiry or investigation into complaints against any public servant and to decide about filing of a charge sheet or otherwise before the special court on completion of such investigation. There is, however, still no clarity on the Lokpal ordering an inquiry against any public servant without seeking his views and that of his superiors on the complaint.

The prime minister has been included within the Lokpal’s ambit but with some riders. He is exempted on issues of external and internal security, atomic energy and international relations.
The same concession has been granted to the prime minister’s office in case of matters dealt by its officials regarding public order, internal security, atomic energy and external affairs.

NGOs funded from abroad or by any government body will come within the Lokpal’s ambit.




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