Jan Lokpal Bill draft to be finalised today

CM, cabinet ministers under lens

Jan Lokpal Bill draft to be finalised today

Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal will chair a crucial Cabinet meeting on Monday to finalise the draft of the Delhi Jan Lokpal Bill, paving the way for fulfilling the poll promise of the ruling Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) of passing a stringent anti-corruption law for the city.

Despite resistance from bureaucrats to some of the clauses in the draft, the Cabinet is likely to move swiftly to achieve what it is seen as a “must-do” for the government, said sources in the Delhi government.

The draft bill suggests that the anti-corruption branch of the Delhi government will serve as the investigation wing of Lokayukta.

Apart from all government employees, the chief minister and his cabinet ministers will also be under the purview of the anti-graft bill, according to the draft. 

Protection for whistle-blowers and witnesses has also been assured in the bill, which talks of dispensing a minimum punishment of six months and a maximum sentence of life term for corruption.

In the Centre's Lokpal law, the prime minister’s decisions related to foreign affairs and national security cannot be scrutinised under the anti-graft law. But in the proposed Delhi legislation, no such immunity has been given to any decision of the chief minister.

The Lokayukta in Delhi shall also have the power to take action in corruption cases on its own on allegations that are in the public domain.

The proposed bill is to be brought in Delhi Assembly on February 13, the day on which the four-day special session begins at the Indira Gandhi Stadium, adjacent to the Delhi Secretariat. According to sources, the bill would be put to vote on February 16.

Several copies of the draft bill were circulated among different departments before a final draft was put together.

The bureaucrats have suggested restricting the scope of complaints that can be filed on subjects such as pollution. They have also recommended that bringing IAS and IPS officers under the ambit of the bill was not needed as they are already covered by a Central law against corruption.

The suggestion to give the Lokpal sweeping powers to investigate, prosecute and punish has also been red-flagged by experts, who see this as against the principle of natural justice. 

The AAP, which was born out of the anti-graft agitation of Anna Hazare, had made passing the Lokpal Bill an issue in the Assembly polls. The party promised in its manifesto that it would pass the law within 15 days of coming to power. The deadline was, however, extended several times by Kejriwal. 

The draft bill talks of varying punishments for the same offence for government employees holding different posts. “A re-look has been suggested on the clause that recommends severe punishment for a senior officer and less severe punishment for a low-ranked employee for the same offence,” said a source.

The power of the Lokpal to jail a person found guilty of corruption has also been questioned.

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