Panel adopts Lokpal bill; U-turn by Anna

Panel adopts Lokpal bill; U-turn by Anna

16 MPs dissent; LS debate now certain

Panel adopts Lokpal bill; U-turn by Anna

Anti-graft crusader Anna Hazare said he will abide by Parliament’s decision on the issue of bringing the prime minister under the purview of the proposed Lokpal. “We will have to accept the decision of Parliament,” was Hazare’s reply to a question posed to him by reporters in Ralegaon Siddhi village in Maharashtra.

The turnaround by the Gandhian is significant because he had earlier threatened to hold a token hunger strike at Jantar Mantar in Delhi on December 11 and then an indefinite fast beginning December 27 at the Ramlila Grounds.

The dissenting voices, including those on key issues such as the inclusion of the prime minister, Group C employees and the CBI under the Lokpal, have been included as part of the report which has left the issue of bringing the prime minister under the Lokpal for Parliament to decide. The bill will be presented in Parliament on Friday.

In a significant move, three Congress MPs – Deepa Dasmunshi, P T Thomas and Meenakshi Natarajan – gave their dissent notes during Wednesday’s final meeting demanding inclusion of Group C employees under the Lokpal’s purview and making the Central Vigilance Commission accountable to the ombudsman. The notes go against the reported party line of the Congress which wanted Group A and B government employees under the Lokpal and Group C staff under the CVC.

Three proposals
As for inclusion of the prime minister, the report contained three proposals on the issue: his inclusion without exception and qualifications, inclusion with no exclusionary caveats but after demitting office and inclusion with exclusions on issues like national security and foreign affairs.

Seven BJP members have submitted their notes of dissent demanding inclusion of the prime minister with some safeguards, inclusion of lower bureaucracy and making citizen’s charter and grievance redressal mechanism a part of the Lokpal institution.

While the CPM said it wanted inclusion of the prime minister and the lower bureaucracy under the ambit of the Lokpal, the Revolutionary Socialist party (RSP) said the prime minister should be covered under the ombudsman without any safeguards.

A total of 16 notes of dissent are believed to have been submitted to the committee by members belonging to the BJP, the Biju Janata Dal (BJD), the Samajwadi Party (SP), the Congress, the Lok Jana Shakti Party (LJP), the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and the Left parties.

The completion of the report gave rise to fresh doubts whether the Lokpal bill would indeed be passed in the current session. After its submission on December 9, the report would go to the Law Ministry for study and inclusion of the committee’s recommendations which would be forwarded to the Union Cabinet. Once the Cabinet takes a decision on the revised bill, the ministry would present it along with the original bill to Parliament.

According to the present time table, a fresh bill with the government’s amendments could come before the Lok Sabha for consideration on December 19 and reach the Rajya Sabha on December 21. The Parliament session ends on December 22.

Speaking to reporters, committee chairman Abhishek Singhvi said: "The committee considered 25 issues with convergence on a large number of subjects and some divergence on different issues by different members.” He said the notes of dissent will be reflected in the report when it is presented to Parliament.

In their dissent notes, SP, RJD and LJP members demanded reservation in Lokpal “at all levels” for SCs, STs, OBCs, women and minorities. The panel has recommended conferring constitutional status on the Lokpal and setting up of Lokpal and Lokayuktas in states.

Its report has decided not to tinker with the present system of appointing the CBI director. In a new recommendation, the committee favoured 50 per cent reservation to members of SC/ST, OBC, minorities and women in the seven-member search panel for choosing a Lokpal and to make the search panel mandatory.