Lokpal bill to cover PM

The draft Lokpal Bill, 2010 provides for filing of complaints of allegations of corruption against Prime Minister, ministers and MPs with the Lokpal.

According to the Bill, the Lokpal shall consist of a Chairperson who is or has been a Chief Justice or a judge of the Supreme Court. It will also have two members who have either been the judges of the Supreme Court or the Chief Justices of the High Courts.

The Lokpal Bill has had a long and chequered history. Legislations in the past had included the Prime Minister within the ambit of the bill only on a few occasions.

The current bill provides for inquiry against Prime Minister but it has to be routed through the Speaker of the Lok Sabha and the Lokpal can hear it only if it is cleared by the Speaker.

The National Commission for Review of the Working of the Constitution in 2001 had recommended that the Prime Minister be kept out of the Lokpal's purview since he occupies a unique position and is the head of the entire governmental structure.

The Commission, headed by retired Chief Justice M N Venkatachaliah, had said that the Prime Minister as the symbol of stability and continuity of the regime should not be exposed to the risks of well-orchestrated attempts to malign his image and reputation.

The draft bill also provides that complaints against ministers and MPs should be routed through either the Lok Sabha Speaker or the Rajya Sabha Chairman and be heard only if they are referred by the presiding officers to it.

The Lokpal can also enquire into act or conduct of any person other than a public functionary if it is necessary for the purpose of inquiry into any allegation of corruption.

Any complaint inquired by Lokpal cannot be referred to Commission of Inquiry Act. Under the bill, the Chairperson and members of Lokpal shall be appointed on the recommendations of a committee consisting of the Vice President as its Chairman, Prime Minister, Lok Sabha Speaker, Home and Law Ministers and Leaders of Opposition in both Houses of Parliament.

The Leader of the House, other than the House in which the Prime Minister is a member of Parliament, will also be a member.

No sitting judge of the Supreme Court or Chief Justice of a High Court shall be appointed without consultation with the Chief Justice of India.

The Chairperson and members will ineligible to hold other offices like an MP or MLA, office of trust or profit. They shall also severe their connection with any political party or conduct and management of business. They should also cease to practice any profession.
The Chairman and members will office for a period of three years or till they attain the age of 70 and shall be appointed by the President of India.

They can be removed by the President on the grounds of misbehaviour or incapacity proved by an inquiry made by a committee consisting of the Chief Justice of India and two other judges of the apex court next to the CJI in seniority.

The Chairman or the members have to be informed of the charges against him and given a reasonable opportunity of being heard in respect of those charges.

The idea of Lokpal emanated from the office of Ombudsman prevalent in Scandinavian countries.

The first legislative attempt at Lokpal in India fell after the bill was passed in the 4th Lok Sabha in 1969 but could not get through in Rajya Sabha.

Subsequently, Lokpal bills were introduced in 1971, 1977, 1985, 1989, 1996, 1998, 2001, 2005 and in 2008.

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