Tough task ahead for drafting panel

 While there are several proposals before the Union government, including those suggested by individuals and groups, the official draft Bill and the Jan Lokpal Bill suggested by Anna Hazare and his team may serve as a basis. Interestingly, these two drafts have different approaches to some of the contentious points.

The very first point where the government and civil society representatives may lock horns will be the selection of Lokpal. While the government wants an official committee consisting of the vice-president and prime minister, among others, to choose Lokpal, the Hazare group suggests that the selection panel should consist of members from judicial background, chief election commissioner, comptroller and auditor-general of India and Nobel prize winners and Magsaysay awardees of Indian origin. It also wants a transparent and participatory selection process. The government wants Lokpal to be a body of three members, all retired judges, while Hazare and others’ Bill expands it to 10 plus chairman, four of them having legal background.

The second important issue will be the jurisdiction of the ombudsman. While the official bill covers MPs, ministers and the prime minister, the Jan Lokpal Bill wants jurisdiction over politicians, officials and judges. Civil society wants no bar on the powers of Lokpal. The official draft says Lokpal cannot investigate complaints regarding the prime minister which concerns foreign affairs, security and defence.

From where will Lokpal draw its power? As for the government bill, there is no issue here as it wants the institution to be only an advisory body. As against this, the Jan Lokpal Bill proposes powers to initiate investigations suo motu and also take up complaints directly from the public. It will have police as well as prosecution powers. For this, it wants the entire CVC and the anti-corruption wing of the CBI to be merged in Lokpal while the body cannot dismiss any complaint from the public without hearing the complainant.

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