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Lokpal: Constitutional amendment being mulled

Last Updated: Sunday, October 16, 2011 - 14:37

New Delhi: A move to grant constitutional
status to Lokpal has gained momentum with a Parliamentary Committee considering a draft legislation to this effect with
a provision which will not require ratification by states.

The draft constitutional amendment bill prepared jointly
by two former Chief Justices of India - Justice J S Verma and
Justice M N Venkatachalaiah - proposes provisions on the lines
of Election Commission.

The draft Constitutional (116th) Amendment Bill was
submitted to Parliamentary Standing Committee on Law and
Justice and Personnel by the former CJIs last week.

Law Minister Salman Khurshid had disclosed for the first
time that the proposed Lokpal will have
the status of a constitutional authority for which purpose the
Constitution will be amended, a move which is in line with the
suggestion made by Congress General Secretary Rahul Gandhi.

"We are working on a very strong Lokpal Bill. A Lokpal
Bill that will come with a constitutional amendment. That
amendment will give the Lokpal the status of a constitutional
authority," he had said.

The Lokpal will be "more powerful than the Election
Commission" and "will have far greater powers," the minister
had said.

Justice Verma said that the amendment bill can be
passed in a "single day, even on the first day of Winter
Session", allaying fears that the constitutional amendment
could delay the setting up Lokpal as claimed Team Anna.

Describing the draft bill as as an "important idea",
Committee Chairman Abhishek Singhvi said, "This is part of the
continuing process of getting direct inputs from diverse
sections of society. It will be thrashed out. As far as nitty
gritty is concerned, it will be when the committee starts its
internal deliberations."

Justice Verma said the state legislatures need not ratify
the amendment.

Under Article 368, it is necessary to ratify a
Constitutional amendment related to a specified set of matters
by no less than one half of the states. Issues falling under
Article 54, 55, 73, 162 and 241 fall under this category.

However, the amendment to grant constitutional status to
Lokpal does not fall under this category and only Parliament
need to pass the constitutional amendment by two-third of
majority, Justice Verma maintained.

He said while everybody supports a strong Lokpal, "there
can`t be a stronger Lokpal than a constitutional body. If it
is done, it will be part of the Constitution."

The proposed amendment seeks to insert `Part XVA` after
`Part XV` that deals with elections and the role of Election

The proposed `Part XVA` makes provision for inserting
Article 329 C and Article 329 D. While Article 329 C will
incorporate a commitment that there "shall be a Lokpal", whose
powers shall be specified by a separate law made by
Parliament, Article 329 D will incorporate a commitment in the
Constitution that there shall be a Lokayukta for every state
whose powers will be "specified by law made by the appropriate

Asked as to when the Committee will submit its report and
whether it would be done so in the winter session, Singhvi
said, till now this is the fastest moving committee. No time
line can be given.

When told that Parliament has given three months to the
Committee to give the report, he said that the panel was
reconstituted in late September and it has been just one
month since then.


First Published: Sunday, October 16, 2011 - 14:30

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