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BJP defends objection to PM’s exclusion from Lokpa

Sushma Swaraj justified her objection to exclusion of PM from the purview of the Lokpal Bill saying govt has given no reasons for his exemption.



New Delhi: Leader of Opposition in Lok
Sabha Sushma Swaraj on Thursday justified her objection to exclusion
of Prime Minister from the purview of the Lokpal Bill saying
government has given no reasons for his exemption and insisted
that nobody was above criminal law.

Just before the government introduced the Lokpal Bill,
Swaraj spoke in the Lok Sabha expressing her party`s objection
to the exclusion of the Prime Minister from the purview of the
Lokpal.

"A basic objection we raised was the exemption given to
the Prime Minister in the Lokpal Bill. We want a Lokpal but an
effective Lokpal. Several civil and criminal laws are passed
in Parliament but none gives immunity to anybody. This is the
first time this is being done," Swaraj said.

She maintained that though the Bill includes cabinet
minister, it does not include the Prime Minister and no reason
has been given for this.

"If the logic is that the Prime Minister has to take
several sensitive decisions, then the Defence Minister also
has to take decisions which are sensitive and so does the Home
Minister. In some decisions, the Prime Minister and others are
involved but while others can be prosecuted the Prime Minister
cannot be," Swaraj said.

Citing examples, she said in the 2G spectrum scam the
Prime Minister is reported to have been in the know of the
decisions taken while in the Commonwealth Games projects he
was involved in decision making according to the CAG. But the
Bill states that as long as the PM is in office he is above
prosecution by Lokpal.

Taking a dig at the government and the Congress party,
Swaraj said, "The Prime Minister wants to be in the purview of
the Lokpal. The PM hardly speaks but when he speaks nobody
listens to him."

Swaraj said former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee
had set at rest all debate on inclusion of the PM within
purview of Lokpal by saying he wanted to be within its ambit.

"The issue here is that though we could not pass the
Lokpal Bill when we were in power, we have not changed our
stand on the issue. But Pranab Mukherjee, who as Chairperson
of the Standing Committe on Home Affairs in 2002, had agreed
to inclusion of PM within Lokpal ambit, he is changing his
stand now," Swaraj said.

Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley said
keeping the Prime Minister outside the purview of Lokpal is
not acceptable in criminal law which has a non-discriminatory
provision.

"Prime Minister in India does not enjoy immunity from
law. Even the CBI can investigate him. This is the first time
the Prime Minister has been treated as a class apart," Jaitley
said.

The eminent lawyer said Lokpal will deal with
procedural law and under it, it would be illogical to keep the
PM out of the purview of the ombudsman.

"The Prime Minister does not work alone. Some
ministers and bureaucrats work with him," he said, adding that
giving him immunity would hamper investigations against others
as well.

"Others will have to wait till he relinquishes
office... If you have a corrupt Prime Minister you suffer him
even if he is corrupt," Jaitley said. The people would have to
wait till he completes his term to prosecute him.

Asked if PM should be exempted from being held
accountable for certain sensitive functions, Swaraj said,"The
exemptions on use of secret funds and such matters is already
mentioned in our Lokpal Bill."

Jaitley said there should be a "judicial Lokpal" to
deal with higher judiciary as there were several aspects which
needed to be dealt with exclusively.

"Under the present collegium system judges appoint
judges and judges judge the judges. This system has not
succeeded... Both in regard to appointment and complaints
there is need for a judicial Lokpal," he said.

PTI

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