PM's inclusion splits Lokpal panel

PM's inclusion splits Lokpal panel

A conclusion on the issue has been elusive, with a few members opposing the proposal to subject the prime minister to Lokpal scrutiny. The standing committee is likely to submit a report to Parliament containing a note from members against the inclusion of the PM. However, the issue will be discussed further as the committee circulates the draft of the report among its members on Monday.

The report is likely to be submitted to Parliament on or before its deadline of December 7.

Sources in the committee told Deccan Herald that members of the Congress and its allies in the United Progressive Alliance (UPA), besides Lalu Prasad (RJD), Ramvilas Paswan (LJP) and Vijay Bahadur Singh (BSP) are against the inclusion of the prime minister. According to Congress members, the prime minister could be investigated only after he demits the office.

A section of the 31-member committee, mainly comprising BJP MPs, are of the view that prime minister should be brought under the Lokpal, while excluding his decisions on internal and external security.

Some members, especially Pinaki Misra of the BJD, have advocated a safeguard. They are of the opinion that the full bench of Lokpal should send recommendation to the Supreme Court, in case the prime minister is found guilty. The full bench of the apex court should decide the case where the prime minister gets an opportunity to present his/her version.

The Abhishek Singhvi-led committee has achieved consensus on some key issues like maintaining independence to judiciary, making Lokayukta part of the legislation, giving constitutional status and power of prosecution to Lokpal, bringing under its purview about 2.3 lakh Group A and B officials of the Central government and enforcing lighter penalty for frivolous complaints.

Besides higher judiciary, there is consensus on keeping the media and corporates out of Lokpal ambit, while bringing NGOs under its purview.

“In my view, the power of prosecution is the most important one. The Lokpal will have under its mandate the Directorate of Prosecution (DoP) which is now under the CBI,” a member said, hinting that this may satisfy Team Anna.

Under the proposal, a complaint would first go to Lokpal for inquiry and will be forwarded to the CBI if there is merit in it. After the CBI probe, it will be forwarded to the DoP for action.

If this provision is agreed to by Parliament, it may end the government’s control over the CBI.

The Central Vigilance Commission will continue to have control over cases against the  Group C and D, the lower echelons of officialdom.

The committee may take a decision against any reservation while appointing the members of the Lokpal.

“This is because none of the Constitutional entities such as Supreme Court, Chief Election Commissioner etc comes under the quota ambit,” said a member.

The demand for reservation was made by Paswan, but it did not find much support.
The selection panel for appointment of chairperson of the Lokpal and its members is likely to comprise the prime minister, Lok Sabha Speaker, Chief Justice of India and the leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha.

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