Lokpal panel meet ends on a sorry note

In a lengthy press statement, India Against Corruption, the organisation of the  civil society, described the Monday meeting as “disastrous” and said the government disagreed on almost everything and went on to disclose the details of what happened at the four-hour-long meeting.

The release said the civil society members were shocked to hear the government nominees on the panel opposing the proposal to cover the PM under Lokpal.  “We were shocked to hear that because in the draft bill prepared by the government in January this year, PM was covered, though with some exceptions. Today, they wanted PM to be completely out of Lokpal’s investigations. They have said that if any enquiry starts against the PM, he would lose all authority to govern and take decisions”.

The release quoted home minister and committee member P Chidambaram as saying the PM’s position would be weakened if there were allegations against him every other day.

“He was reminded that an unsubstantiated complaint would not be entertained. A seven-member bench of Lokpal would first hear that complaint and decide whether there was an adequate prima facie evidence against the PM. If there were none, the complaint would be dismissed. However, government did not agree”.

On the issue of including judiciary in Lokpal, the government, according to civil society, did not agree saying it would compromise the independence of judiciary. “We reminded them that all that we were asking for was power to a seven member bench of Lokpal to decide whether an first information report should be registered against a judge or not. Today, only Chief Justice of India has the power to give that permission. And despite so much evidence against so many judges, permission had been given only in one case in the last 20 years”.

The release said the government told the meeting that judiciary should be dealt under Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill, which was pending in Parliament. We told them that the Bill does not even talk of punishing and prosecuting “corruption” of judges. It only talks of enquiring against their “misbehaviour”.

The government said that they would include corruption also in the said bill. Then we said, if you want to include judiciary’s corruption in that bill, let this committee decide on drafting that bill also. To that they refused.

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