Lokpal Bill: Parliamentary Committee faced with tough task

Lokpal Bill: Parliamentary Committee faced with tough task

Two crucial meetings of the Standing Committee on Law and Justice, Personnel and Public Grievances, which was reconstituted just three days back, have been scheduled on September 23 and 24 by its Chairman Abhishek Singhvi.

During the recently concluded Monsoon Session of Parliament, the Committee was given three months time to give its report.

The Committee has to devise ways to form a strong Lokpal Bill and solve the differences between civil society headed by Anna Hazare and the government over the bill.

While government has brought forward the Lokpal Bill to check the menace of corruption, civil society has come up with Jan Lokpal Bill with certain powers and jurisdiction which did not find favour with the government.

Besides the Central Vigilance Commission and the Central Bureau of Investigation, those who have been called to give evidence before the Standing Committee include social activist Aruna Roy, eminent lawyer Harish Salve, and Dalit leader Udit Raj.

The 31-member committee has besides Singhvi a number of legal experts including Ram Jethmalani of the BJP, Vijay Bahadur Singh of the BSP, Manish Tewari and Shantaram Naik of the Congress as also leaders like Lalu Prasad, Ram Vilas Paswan and Amar Singh.

The Committee has already heard Team Anna and has requested all stakeholders to give it a fair chance. "It may, in fact, surprise all critics," Singhvi said.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has made it clear it would be entitled to consider not only the bill introduced by government but the Jan Lokpal Bill and other versions like those prepared by Aruna Roy.

While Central Vigilance Commissioner Pradeep Kumar is scheduled to appear before the Committee on September 23, CBI Director A P Singh will present his case the next day.
CVC officials fear that there may be a conflict of interest in case the Lokpal comes into force in the form being envisaged by the civil society.

There are also reports that CVC could suggest incorporating either the Central Vigilance Commissioner or one of the two Vigilance Commissioners into the Lokpal for smooth functioning.

In matters relating to offences made under the Prevention of Corruption Act, CVC exercises superintendence over the CBI. The Commission can undertake an inquiry or investigation against a public servant working in any organisation under the government and suspected of indulging in corrupt practises.

As the setting up of a Lokpal is a matter of time now, the talk is that the CBI and the CVC's existence as two of India's premier, independent anti-corruption agencies could get threatened.

CBI officials in private have voiced their strong reservation about bifurcating or dividing it as has been sought by the civil society.

As against this, former CBI Director R K Raghavan has come out openly for autonomy, which, at present "remains an appendage of the executive to be manipulated at will by it."

Magsaysay Award winner Aruna Roy has also given her version of the Lokpal Bill.
A member of National Advisory Council (NAC) headed by Congress president Sonia Gandhi said she was opposed to the Team Anna version of Lokpal Bill which she feels to be "too simplistic".

Harish Salve, a former Solicitor General, has gone on record dubbing the Jan Lokpal Bill as "draconian".

Udit Raj is opposed to the Jan Lokpal bill and is pitching for a "truly representative" Bahujan Lokpal Bill.