New Delhi: Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitely said that the Parliament has to understand that the ‘sense of the nation’ which wants a strong Lokpal Bill, while accusing the government of creating a non-workable constitutional cocktail.
Opening the debate on the Lokpal and Lokayukta Bill 2011 in the Upper House on Thursday, Jaitely said, “We (Parliament) have to decide whether we (want to) clash with history or create history. There is a sense of the house and there is a sense of the nation also…that our elected representatives, our government brings a strong Lokpal.”
“We want that the Lokpal Bill be passed but the government should accept the amendments passed by the Opposition. We want a strong Lokpal Bill,” he said, adding, “If we miss this opportunity then it would be more difficult for the coming generations.’
“There is question on our (parliamentarians) integrity. I regret to say that it is a half hearted legislation. We are facing a test and people of the country will decide on us by today evening,” Jaitely pointed out while trying to impress upon the House the need to get the bill passed.
“People will not spare those who want a weak law. It is not just about government, of the BJP, but would be of every party whether they are acting in a way that is making the law weak…Are they only willing to proclaim or are they really willing to strike?” he quizzed.
“The government’s plan was clear that they create a smokescreen…they talked to civil society and then said that Lokpal will be a constitutional body. You want to create a phony Lokpal and create a smokescreen that we are giving it constitutionals status,” he said accusing the government.
“The only difference between the two (Lokpal with or without Constitutional status) is the procedure to remove the Lokpal. You want to make it a toy and then say it is a constitutional authority. The country doesn’t need such a type of Lokpal,” he added.
Jaitley said, “People in the government say that it will be game changer but game doesn’t change with phony institutions but game changes with strong institutions.”
On the issue of Lokayukta, Jaitley said that the government is trying to attack the federal structure by making it mandatory for the state government to adopt the bill passed by the Parliament. He said, “Make it (Lokpal) a constitutional body but then make it clear that you will not attack the federal structure.”
“The government has consciously brought a law which is constitutionally vulnerable. Why are you creating a constitutional havoc? Disciplinary action against state officials will be done by a central law?,” he said while pointing out that the Centre should not assume that it has the executive power.
“This government is trying to bring a constitutional cocktail. You want the article 253 then in the concurrent say that the powers are through Art 252…you can’t dismantle the entire authority of the state, the Centre can only be an interloper,” he pointed out.
Further taking on the government, he said, “You are making an institution (Lokpal) where you control the appointment mechanism, you control the removal mechanism. Change this and we will support the bill.”
Jiately slammed the government on the issue of the CBI as well. He said that as per the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) no one can interfere with the investigating procedure and that it is completely alien to criminal jurisprudence.
On the investigation powers in corruption cases, he said, “Why are you creating an impossible mechanism. Everybody except the wise men in the government say that it is an unworkable mechanism…Investigation has to be conducted independently, if a CBI officer is investigating a case against you (government) then at least you should not have the power to remove, those should be with the Lokpal.”
Pressing the need to make the CBI an autonomous body, Jaitley further pointed out that it is virtually impossible to conduct an enquiry against the Prime Minister under the current bill
The Leader of Opposition also took on the government for including the civil society, religious institutions under the ambit of the Lokpal, he said, “When we are making a government authority; we are democracy; it should not be made so intrusive that it enters private lives.”
The BJP leader also once again opposed the provision of reservation in the bill.
“All this is designed to make this law vulnerable to a constitutional challenge. We should enact a law which is constitutionally permissible…please accept the amendments so that the bill is passed today,” he said.