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Should Lokpal members contest polls?

Last Updated: Monday, June 20, 2011 - 18:09

New Delhi: Can the proposed 11-member Lokpal contest elections after demitting office.

This ticklish issue came up at the sixth meeting of the joint drafting committee on Lokpal Bill on June 15, which the Anna Hazare team boycotted.

Sources said the ministers could not arrive at a conclusion on the question and decided to keep the provision of barring chairperson and members of the Lokpal from contesting elections in the draft untouched.

The five ministers left it to the wisdom of the Union Cabinet on the issue.

Section 5(8) of the Lokpal Bill version 2.3 says, "The chairperson or members shall not be eligible for appointment on any position in Government of India or Government of any state or for fighting elections, if he has ever held the
position of the chairperson or a member for any period."

In the meeting, HRD Minister Kapil Sibal said there
was a need to take a view on whether the Lokpal members can
contest elections.

According to the sources, Finance Minister and
chairman of the committee Pranab Mukherjee said a person`s
eligibility to contest elections was determined by the
Constitution and wondered whether to make the members of
Lokpal ineligible to contest was legally possible.

To this, Law Minister M Veerappa Moily observed that
such a bar would require a constitutional amendment. Water
Resources Minister Salman Khurshid voiced his opposition to
bar the members from contesting elections.

Following this, the committee decided to leave it to
the cabinet a decision on the matter and added a provision
that the members would not be eligible for to the office of
President, Vice President, Parliament, Assemblies and local
bodies.

The Lokpal version 2.3 also says that the Lokpal
members shall not be serving or former MPs and MLAs and shall
not hold any office or trust of profit or would have ever
been connected with any political party.

The civil society had boycotted the meeting of June
six to protest against the police crackdown against Ramdev and
his followers who were agitating against corruption and
bringing back blackmoney from abroad.

On the contentious issue of inclusion of Prime
Minister under the ambit of the Lokpal, Mukherjee observed
that so long as the Prime Minister holds the office, any
inquiry should be suspended and the Lokpal may keep the matter
of inquiry with himself.

However, he said, the moment the Prime Minister demits
office, the inquiry can proceed.

Sources said Sibal then enquired whether former
ministers would be covered by the Lokpal Act. Home Minister P
Chidambaram suggested that since Lokpal would be a new
authority, it had to be made clear as to who would be covered.

Chidambaram was of the view that all those who were
covered under the Prevention of Corruption Act should be
brought under the ambit of Lokpal even if they have retired or
demited office.

In the meeting, the sources said, the committee
decided to include ministers, former ministers, MPs and former
MPs.
On the limitation period for initiating inquiries by
Lokpal, the committee decided that whatever limitation period
is applicable under the Prevention of Corruption Act should
apply in the Lokpal also.

PTI



First Published: Monday, June 20, 2011 - 18:09

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