Panel to finalise Lokpal draft Bill before monsoon

Panel to finalise Lokpal draft Bill before monsoon

Bringing PM, judges under ambit to be discussed later

With all members of the joint drafting committee agreeing on several issues, the panel has set the motion to draft the bill, Union Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal told reporters after the third round of meeting here.

The committee, constituted on April 8, is expected to finalise the draft before the monsoon session. Briefing reporters after the meeting, senior lawyer Prashant Bhushan said there was agreement on various issues like transparency in the process of appointment of the Lokpal, the autonomy of the ombusdsman and its financial independence. The committee also agreed that Lokpal should work as a totally independent body and it need not seek sanction from government to prosecute the accused person(s). 

On the contentious issues of brining the Prime Minister and judiciary under the ambit of the Lokpal, they said the next meeting scheduled for May 23, will take them up.

 RTI activist Arvind Kejriwal, who is part of the 10 member drafting panel, said only one fourth of the bill has been discussed. “The model on which the financial independence will be based is yet to be decided. Various models were discussed, including from other countries and of institutions like the Supreme Court, Comptroller and Auditor General and the Central Vigilance Commission,” he said.

There was agreement on having a broad-based selection panel for appointing the Lokpal, the discussions also covered on the need for having similar ombudsmen at the state level. Sibal said more discussions were needed on having state-level Lokpals as consultations need to be held with state governments on the issue.

Sibal said while there were basic principles on having an effective Lokpal, there were certain areas which have an impact on existing laws and constitutional provisions which need more discussion.

The committee is chaired by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and has Union Ministers Sibal, Veerappa Moily, Salman Khurshid and P Chidambaram as members. Besides Prashant Bhushan and Kejriwal, the civil society members are Shanti Bhushan, Anna Hazare and Karnataka Lokayukta Santosh Hegde.

The meeting, however, did not discuss empowering the Lokpal to order telephone tapping. The latest version of the Jan Lokpal Bill prepared by the Anna Hazare-led group proposed power to tap phone calls by the ombudsman and having institutions like the CBI and CVC under its supervisory control.