Consensus eludes Lokpal committee

Panel yet to decide CBI merger

A Parliamentary committee on Lokpal met here on Friday, but failed to evolve a consensus on two broad issues — whether the CBI should be merged with the proposed watchdog and representation of women and minorities on the panel.

The committee headed by Congress MP Satyabrat Chaturvedi will take a final call on the two issues on November 19 before finalising a draft of Lokpal and Lokayuktas Bill of 2011. The amended Lokpal Bill is expected to be tabled in Parliament a couple of days after the two Houses convene on November 22.

The 64-page Bill, introduced in Parliament last December owing to nationwide protests by Team Anna, had not sought Lokpal’s control over the CBI. But, it had a provision seeking Lokpal’s superintendence over the CBI in corruption cases referred to it by the agency.

While Team Anna wanted the CBI to be merged with the proposed Lokpal to make it independent of government and avoid duplication of anti-corruption agencies, the premier investigating organisation itself was opposed to it.

It is learnt that some members of the panel wanted the anti-corruption wing of the CBI to be merged with Lokpal, while the other wings, including the one that probes conventional crime, remained with the agency but with independent status. Sources said that the government did not agree to the suggestion, so the issue would be taken again in the next meeting.

Probe and prosecution

The government is believed to be hesitant on separating investigation from prosecution – a shift from the bill proposal. The bill had envisaged that Lokpal will have separate inquiry and prosecution wings to ensure professionalism and avoid chances of conflict of interest.

The other portion of the bill that is said to have generated heat at the meetings was the provision to have not less than 50 per cent of Lokpal members from SC, ST, OBCs, minorities and women. The Lokpal, as per the bill, will be headed by a chairperson and comprise up to eight members.

The ruling party wants to push the clause by using the word “representation” instead of “reservation” of women and minorities as it is liable to be struck down by the courts. Reservation not only has to be below 50 per cent, it cannot be given on the basis of religion.

Sources said some committee members demanded the government should come clean on what it meant by the phrase – representation of minorities and women – as they suspect that the government is camouflaging its agenda.

At the time of debate on the bill, Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj too had objected to the provision of filling Lokpal bench with “not less than 50 per cent” from minorities on the grounds that it would be “patently unconstitutional” given the fact that reservation on the basis of religion did not exist.

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