Minister anguished over bringing PM under Lokpal



New Delhi: Reflecting the unease in Government regarding certain provisions of Jan Lokpal Bill, Minister Ashwani Kumar on Saturday voiced concerns in Rajya Sabha over demands like bringing the Prime Minister, conduct of MPs inside Parliament and lower bureaucracy under Lokpal's ambit.

The Minister of State for Planning said he was "distressed" by what was going on in Ramlila ground, where Anna Hazare is on fast for last 12 days demanding the passage of Jan Lokpal bill by Parliament.

Kumar was the first speaker from the side of the government and Congress in the House to participate in the discussion on Lokpal issue that began with Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee's statement.

While noting that Hazare is a "crusader", the minister questioned "the kind of guidance that he has received".

Cautioning against provisions for appointment of Lokayuktas in states as suggested in Hazare's Jan Lokpal Bill, he said, "No attempts must be raised which could raise doubts about our intention, about the integrity of our federal structure."

He cautioned against rushing through the legislation "in haste or under pressure from people outside the House." "The Prime Minister is the key stone of our Cabinet arch. Do we subject him to vexatious and malicious allegations...The Prime Minister's Office is at the centre of everything that leads to sustain integrity, unity of the country... Please reflect on what should we do..." he said.

When Prakash Javadekar (BJP) asked whether the minister was expressing his personal views or it was the party line, Kumar said, "Interpret as you wish. I have said nothing contrary to what they (government and Congress) have been saying." Kumar had, however, earlier said that he was presenting his personal views on the matter.

Unimpressed by suggestions by a few quarters that a way out could be brining the Prime Minister under the Lokpal but only after he demits office, Kumar said, "You cannot keep the sword of Damocles hanging on his head" even years after he quits.

Kumar also disfavoured the demand for bringing the conduct of MPs inside Parliament under Lokpal - a key provision of the Jan Lokpal Bill.

"We have sufficient and effective mechanism in our Constitution," he said, recalling that Parliament had once expelled 11 MPs during the cash-for-query scam saying it proved Parliament "would not condone slightest error in public morality and probity."

On the demand for bringing the lower bureaucracy under Lokpal purview, he said there were 37 lakh central government employees. "Can we engineer an alternative system?" he asked.

Kumar said he has "grave doubts" regarding the functionality and ethics behind this move and added that "there is no need to flounder or tinker with the established practice."

The minister, at the same time, maintained that "we must have an effective Lokpal bill."

PTI