Much-awaited Lokpal draft tabled in Parliament

Last Updated: Friday, December 9, 2011 - 23:53

New Delhi: A Parliamentary Committee has
favoured an equilibrium in power among the "trinity" of
Lokpal, CBI and CVC under which the CBI would not be
subordinate to the ombudsman and rejected independent phone
tapping powers for the proposed body.

The 286-page report on The Lokpal Bill, 2011 prepared by
the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Personnel and Law and
Justice after over two months of sittings, was tabled in
Parliament on Friday.

The report recommends three options for inclusion of the
Prime Minister under the ambit of the Lokpal with safeguards
while leaving to the "wisdom of Parliament" to take a final
decision.

It favoured keeping judiciary, MPs` conduct inside
Parliament and Group C employees at the Centre out of the
purview of Lokpal.

There were ten notes of dissent given by 17 members. Six
BJP Mps gave a common dissent note demanding among other
things inclusion of PM, citizens and public grievances and
lower bureaucracy under Lokpal, some of the points on which
members of BJD, SP and Left parties agreed.

Three Congress members, one of whom is an aide of Rahul
Gandhi, gave notes of dissent demanding inclusion of Group C
employees under Lokpal and making CVC accountable to the
ombudsman.

Ram Jethmalani appended a separate dissent note demanding
that CBI be brought under the Lokpal because governments of
the day have been misusing the CBI for "their own political
purposes".

On the issue of phone tapping, the committee said various
agencies including CBI, Enforcement Directorate and
Directorate of Revenue Intelligence carry out the exercise
under the Indian Telegraph Act and Supreme Court mandated
principles.

"In all such cases, the committee is not aware of any
situation where any of these agencies are entitled to suo
motu, without separate authorisation, initiate phone tapping.

There is, therefore, no reason as to why the proposed Lokpal
institution should also not be subjected to the same regime
and mechanism," said the report.

It said providing inherent and separate power in the
Lokpal institution in this regard would also create an
"excessive and undesirable concentration of powers" and
frequently involve a conflict of interest... "and disturb the
equilibrium of all investigative agencies for the past
several years..."

The CBI is the principal investigating agency and,
therefore, its powers of phone tapping must continue as they
exist today, it recommended.

On creating an equilibrium among Lokpal, CBI and CVC, the
committee said the CBI would not be subordinate to the Lokpal
but it would only be subject to general superintendence of
Lokpal.

"It must be kept in mind that the CBI is an over 60 year
old body, which has developed a certain morale and espirit de
corps, a particular culture and set of practices, which should
be strengthened and improved, rather than merely subsumed or
submerged within a new or nascent institution, which is yet to
take root," the report said.

But at the same time it said that the CBI, while
enhancing its autonomy and independence, cannot be left on
"auto pilot".

On the role of CBI vis-a-vis Lokpal, the committee has
recommended a five-stage mechanism.

In the first stage, a complaint must be received by the
Lokpal who would hold a preliminary inquiry in stage II.

If a case is made out, it would be referred to CBI in
stage 3 which will investigate independently of the Lokpal
or ministries.

In stage IV, the case would go to the Directorate of
Prosecution which will be under the superintendence of
Lokpal. In the fifth and last stage, the case would go to a
special judge or a Lokpal judge.

It said the CVC would retain a large part of its
disciplinary and functional role for non Lokpal personnel and
regarding misconduct while not being subordinate to the
Lokpal. However, for Lokpal covered personnel and issues,
including the role of the CBI, the CVC would have no role.

The report said apprehensions regarding delay in
granting constitutional status to the institution of Lokpal
are "misplaced" as the amendment bill in this regard would be
much shorter than the statutory bill.

"It can be passed on the same day and at the same time
as the latter though by a different majority," Committee
chairperson Abhishek Singhvi told reporters after the report
was tabled.

The report states that it is "inconceivable that while
parties are in favour of the institution of Lokpal in
principle, as a statutory body, parties would not agree with
equal alacrity for the passage of a constitutional amendment
bill".

Singhvi further said the proposed amendment bill to grant
constitutional status will not have more than seven
paragraphs.

He was hopeful that the Cabinet would clear the Bill and
place the amended version before Parliament for its passage.

"Intentions are very clear that this Bill has to be
brought in this session of Parliament," Singhvi said, adding
there were nine more days in the Winter Session to pass the
legislation.

PTI



First Published: Friday, December 9, 2011 - 09:10

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