Much-awaited Lokpal draft tabled in Parliament
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Last Updated: Friday, December 09, 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.


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

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