New Delhi: CPI(M) on Saturday accused Congress of
reversing its own stand of bringing the Prime Minister under
Lokpal purview, saying a parliamentary panel headed by senior
party leader Pranab Mukherjee had made such a recommendation
"Since the 1989 VP Singh government, three bills were
brought on Lokpal. ... Also in 1996 and 2001. All of them
provided for placing the PM under the Lokpal. It is surprising
that the UPA government is refusing to accept this", CPI(M)
General Secretary Prakash Karat told a press conference here.
Maintaining that all the three bills were brought during
non-Congress governments, he said a Parliamentary Standing
Committee headed by Pranab Mukherjee "had made precisely this
point" while examining the 2001 Lokpal bill that the Prime
Minister should be included.
"What has changed since then? Is it because that under
the UPA government, so many major scams are taking place? They
will have to tell us why they had agreed to bring PM under the
Lokpal purview earlier", Karat said in response to a question.
He said Left parties "insist" that the Prime Minister
should be included as after all the PM was "not immune to the
Prevention of Corruption Act".
He termed as "ridiculous" the view of a section of
Congress that action against the Prime Minister can be
initiated only after he or she demited office.
He, however, said there should be "adequate safeguards"
regarding how the complaints against the PM should be dealt
with, especially on matters concerning national security
or relations with other countries.
Left parties, he said, would attend the all-party meeting
on the issue tomorrow but since the government has not given
its own draft so far, "we will give our views only when we get
it. We have several related issues to raise."
Asked about the Lokpal bill drafting committee comprising
some ministers and the team led by Anna Hazare, Karat said "if
you think you can bypass Parliament and political parties, you
are mistaken. That will not happen".
Asked whether the Left has agreed with the Jan Lokpal
Bill prepared by Hazare`s team, Karat said there have been
several drafts by many NGOs and others on the issue. "After
studying all of them, we have come to our own conclusions. We
agree with some proposals, we disagree with some others".
On bringing the MPs under the purview of the bill, he
referred to the JMM Bribery case during the PV Narasimha Rao
rule and said the system of scrutiny of the conduct of MPs at
present was "weak and unsatisfactory". Amending Article 105,
which protects their freedom of speech and voting, should be
amended to check acts of corruption by MPs.
Pointing out that corruption in high places has become
a feature of the political system after economic
liberalisation, Karat said what has emerged as a dominant
trend was "a thorough distortion of the policy-making process
at the highest levels of the government".
"A nexus of big corporates, politicians and
bureaucrats have matured under the neoliberal regime and is
threatening to subvert our democracy. It is clear that the
current economic regime has made our system more vulnerable to
cronyism and criminality", Karat said.
Speaking on the "big business-public servant nexus",
he said the Lokpal should have powers to recommend
blacklisting of "corrupt" firms from getting government
contracts and concrete measures to recover losses caused to
the public exchequer by their acts.
Karat also sought windening of the definition of
corruption saying it involves a whole range of activities from
bribery, influence peddling, patronage or favour, nepotism,
cronyism, electoral fraud, embezzlement, kickbacks to
officials and involvement in organized crime.
Suggesting that Lok Ayuktas should be set up in states
on the model of the Central Lokpal, Karat also wanted
protection of whistleblowers by immediately enacting laws to
strengthen the Public Interest Disclosure (Protection of
Information) Bill, 2010.
Along with the law to set up an independent and
effective Lokpal, simultaneous measures have to be taken to
strengthen the legal and administrative framework to fight
corruption, he said.
These include setting up of a National Judicial
Commission to deal with the conduct of the judiciary, a law to
protect citizens charter for redressal of public grievances,
electoral reforms to check money power in elections, amending
Article 105 of the Constitution to bring MPs under anti-
corruption scrutiny and setting up of Lok Ayuktas in states to
cover all public servants at the state-level.
Steps should also be taken to unearth black money and
confiscate the funds illegally stashed away in tax havens.