Lokpal bill moved in Lok Sabha

Lokpal bill moved in Lok Sabha

This is the ninth time a bill was introduced in Parliament to set up the institution of Lokpal to probe graft allegations against public functionaries. Each of the eight bills introduced between 1968 and 2001 sparked off debates, but none of those was passed by Parliament. The government’s latest bill too triggered protests from the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party immediately after it was introduced in Lok Sabha by Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office V Narayana-samy, with Leader of Opposition Sushma Swaraj opposing exclusion of the prime minister from the purview of the proposed Lokpal.

Civil society activists led by Gandhian Anna Hazare too burnt copies of the bill, to protest against the government’s lack of sincerity to set up a strong Lokpal.

Narayanasamy, however, claimed the bill was based on deliberations of the joint drafting committee, which was set up with five Union ministers and an equal number from ‘Team Anna’, including Hazare himself.

He told the House that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was in favour of bringing his office under the purview of the Lokpal, but the Cabinet rejected it last week after deliberations on the proposed bill.

According to the bill introduced in Parliament on Thursday, a person holding the post of prime minister will come under the purview of Lokpal only after he quits office.

The Lokpal will also not have under its purview the judiciary and religious organisations receiving public donations. It will have powers to inquire into allegations of corruption against Union ministers, Members of Parliament, Group A officers and equivalent, chairperson or members or officer equivalent to Group A in any body, board, authority, corporation, trust, society or autonomous body set up by an Act of Parliament. It cannot inquire into any allegation over conduct of an MP inside Parliament.

The Lokpal will not be able to inquire into any complaint if the alleged offence was committed more than seven years back. The bill provides for the proposed Lokpal to have separate wings for investigation and prosecution. The proposed institution of ombudsman may utilise the services of any officer or investigating agency of the Central government or state governments to conduct any inquiry.

The Lokpal shall have all the powers of a civil court under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908. Any proceeding before the Lokpal shall be deemed to be a judicial proceeding, within the meaning of Section 193 of the Indian Penal Code. No civil court shall have jurisdiction in respect of any matter the Lokpal is empowered to determine.

According to the bill, no sanction or approval under Section 197 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 or Section 19 of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, will be required in cases where prosecution is proposed by the Lokpal.

The Lokpal will have the powers of search and seizures as well as to attach property acquired by corrupt means.

According to the bill, the Centre will set up as many special courts as recommended by the Lokpal to hear and decide the cases arising out of the proposed legislation as well as the existing Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988. The special courts will have powers to order recovery of losses caused to the exchequer from corrupt public servants. After conclusion of an inquiry, the Lokpal may recommend transfer or suspension or disciplinary proceedings against corrupt public servants.


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