Parliamentary panel adopts Lokpal report

The Parliamentary Standing Committee adopted the Lokpal report amidst increased dissent from members, including those of the Congress.

Zeenews Bureau

New Delhi: The Parliamentary Standing Committee headed by Abhishek Manu Singhvi on Wednesday adopted the Lokpal report amidst increased dissent from members, including those of the Congress.

The development came in the wake of social activist Anna Hazare`s threats to hold a day-long protest on December 11 to press for a strong Lokpal Bill and an extended agitation starting from December 27 if the legislation is not passed in the Winter Session of the Parliament.

Chairman of Parliamentary Standing Committee on Personnel and Law and Justice Abhishek Manu Singhvi said the panel examined around 25 issues and agreed on most of them. "But there are differences on some issues," he said.

The report is likely to be presented on Friday. Sources in the government indicated that a fresh bill with government amendments could come before Lok Sabha for consideration on December 19 and reach the Rajya Sabha on December 21.

The report carries sixteen dissenting notes.

BJP members submitted their notes of dissent demanding inclusion of the Prime Minister with some safeguards, inclusion of lower bureaucracy and making citizen`s charter and grievance redressal mechanism a part of the Lokpal.

In their notes of dissent, the CPI (M) members wanted the inclusion of Prime Minister and lower bureaucracy under the ambit of Lokpal.

In their notes of dissent, members from SP, RJD and LJP have demanded reservation in Lokpal "at all levels" for SCs, STs, OBCs, women and minorities.
Interestingly, three Congress members Deepa Dasmunshi, PT Thomas and Meenakshi Natarajan gave their dissent notes, demanding inclusion of Group C employees under Lokpal`s purview and making CVC accountable to the ombudsman.

The three Congress members also want the Chief Vigilance Commissioner under the Lokpal.

The committee left it to the wisdom of Parliament to decide on inclusion of Prime Minister in the ambit of Lokpal.

The report, without taking a singular position, has recommended three options on the issue of Prime Minister: inclusion without exception and qualifications, inclusion with no exclusionary caveats but after demitting office and inclusion of the PM with exclusions on issues like national security and foreign affairs.
The final report keeps out Group C employees from the ambit of Lokpal.

After 17 sittings of the Committee, the final report has kept out judiciary and MPs` conduct in House out of Lokpal`s purview.

The 30-member panel has also recommended conferring constitutional status on the Lokpal and setting up of Lokpal and Lokayuktas in states under one legislation.

In its 199-page report, the Committee has decided not to tinker with the present system of appointment of CBI Director.

In a new recommendation, the Committee has favoured 50 per cent reservation to members of SC/ST, OBC, minorities and women in the seven-member Search Panel for choosing a Lokpal and to make the Search Panel mandatory. This was not part of the draft report circulated to members a week ago.

It also favours inclusion of Chief Ministers under the state Lokayuktas and if the report is accepted then the Bill should be named as Lokpal/Lokayukta Bill, 2011.

It recommended that Group C and D category officials in the Centre "shall be brought specifically under the jurisdiction of the CVC".

It said the CVC should be made to exercise powers identical or at least largely analogous, in respect of class C and D officials as the Lokpal will do for group A and B category officials.

In the final draft, the Committee has recommended that officials in the state government who are equivalent to Group C and D at the Centre should be included within the jurisdiction of state Lokayuktas "with no exclusion".

The report said employees of state-owned or controlled entities should also be covered.

On the role of CBI and CVC vis-a-vis Lokpal, the report recommends a five-stage mechanism. In the first stage, a complaint must be received by the Lokpal who would hold a preliminary inquiry in stage 2.

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 4, the case would go to the Directorate of Prosecution which will be under the superintendence of Lokpal. In the 5th and last stage, the case would go to a special judge or a Lokpal Judge.

The report has also recommended bringing corporates, media and NGOs within the Lokpal`s ambit.

With PTI inputs

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