`Can`t catch PM if probed after demitting office`

Last Updated: Sunday, June 19, 2011 - 17:58

Bangalore: Karnataka Lokayukta Santosh Hegde on Sunday flayed the government`s stand to keep the Prime Minister out of the purview of Lokpal till he demits office, pointing to the possibilities of evidences being destroyed and also wriggling out by citing "error of judgement" in such cases.



"That (keeping PM out of Lokpal) will not serve the purpose of having an effective investigation because there will not be any trails of the misconduct," Hegde, a member of the Lokpal drafting committee, said in an interview.

If Lokpal were to conduct investigation after Prime Minister demitted office, there are possibilities of evidences being "swept clean" before that and there could be arguments that it was "error of judgement" (on the part of PM) and it is not a case of corruption, he said.



Hegde, a former Supreme Court judge, was responding to questions on the government making clear its opposition to bringing the post of Prime Minister within the ambit of Lokpal till he demitted office.



"Within the government, we feel prima facie, the Prime Minister should not be covered (under the Lokpal). But at the same time we want to make sure that if he demits office, he should not be exonerated from prosecution," HRD minister Kapil Sibal, who is part of the joint drafting committee on Lokpal, had said yesterday.



"Prime Minister was never out of it (Lokpal). Constitution never contemplated Prime Minister to be out of it," Hegde said, adding that the Constitution never contemplated anybody in the country, except the President, out of the purview of the Prevention of Corruption Act. Arguing that corruption is a crime against the country, Hegde said one cannot ignore acts of corruption. In a democracy, "everyone is the same" and corruption was like any other offence in the Indian Penal Code, he said.

"...why do you want to keep a class of people in office under government outside the purview of anti-corruption legislation?", he asked.



He also sought to know why an exception should be made (in case of Prime Minister) with regard to corruption that too at a time when it is "at a higher level" and major scams are coming out.



The Karnataka Lokayukta saw Congress core group`s suggestion to the government to convene an all-party meeting on Lokpal bill as "delaying tactics".



Hegde said all parties had been given questionnaires by the government on the proposed legislation. In addition, all parties are represented in Parliament, where they would speak on the issue anyway, he said.



Saying the all-party meeting would not serve any purpose, he said even if one assumed that parties held one view or the other, "can it be a law by itself ? It can`t be a law".



"It (all-party meeting) is not necessary because it`s going back to them only (in Parliament)," Hegde noted.



He agreed with the government that the conduct of MPs inside Parliament should not come under the Lokpal but added that for him, vote for cash and asking questions for cash are all offences outside the House (and hence, they should come under Lokpal) "as nobody will take cash inside the House".

Hegde made light of the government statement that there is an agreement on 34 of the 40 points raised by the civil society members, saying these 34 were largely related to objects, procedures, clauses and things of nature on which there could be no dispute.



He criticised the government stand against bringing defence deals under Lokpal investigation, saying corruption in such deals are like any other criminal offences.



Hegde disagreed with Sibal`s remark that covering 40 lakh-odd central government employees under Lokpal would require a massive infrastructure independent of the government.



"It`s not so," Hegde said, adding that only Lokayukta needs to be empowered in states and districts to nominate officials to take up investigation and report to Lokayukta, who would take the final decision.



Hegde also opposed the government`s stand against bringing CBI and CVC under the Lokpal.



He argued that once the anti-corruption wing of the CBI is transferred to the Lokpal, that wing would become redundant in CBI. "Their experience and expertise will be helpful to the Lokpal in the investigations."



Similarly, the CVC, which also investigates certain misconduct of central government employees, also need to be merged to let it work under Lokpal. "Why should they (CBI and CVC) work under government?", Hegde asked.



PTI



First Published: Sunday, June 19, 2011 - 17:58
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