BJP slams govt for not accepting two Parliamentary panel recommendations



New Delhi: BJP on Friday slammed the government for not accepting two recommendations of a Parliamentary Committee, saying this would deny clear autonomy to Lokpal and render it weak.

Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley, who was a member of the Select Committee, also questioned the government for taking the proposed legislation to the Cabinet as it is the property of Parliament.

He particularly picked on the government for rejecting the committee's recommendation that Lokpal should have absolute control over CBI officers investigating cases referred to them by the anti-graft ombudsman.

He argued that the government's contention that a CBI officer probing a case referred by Lokpal can be transfered by the agency without approval of Lokpal would ensure that the officers would not be able to function "without fear or favour".

Jaitley, a renowned lawyer, also attacked the government for not accepting a recommendation with regard to denying chance of hearing to an accused public servant before formal trial begins.

"Such an enquiry, though ostensibly appears to be in compliance of the principles of natural justice, would be destructive of any effective probe against a delinquent public servant," he contended.

He said the government's final draft of the Bill was "flawed" as appointment of Lokpal was "substantially controlled" by the government and the investigating agency at the disposal of Lokpal was "completely government-controlled".

"The investigation procedure was loaded so as to render any independent investigation nearly impossible," Jaitley said.

The Union Cabinet yesterday accepted 14 of the 16 recommendations made by the Select Committee, to which the bill was referred in May in view of sharp differences among political parties.

Jaitley said the debate on the bill in Rajya Sabha saw the entire Opposition opposing it and the bill was thus referred to a Select Committee, which was unanimous on most issues, but he had reservations on at least two issues.

He said officers of CBI must function without fear or favour and government has "no plausible reason" why it chose to reject the committee recommendation on change of investigative officer without the approval of Lokpal.

"Removing him (Investigative Officer) and replacing him with a pliable officer cannot be the discretion of the government... There is no plausible reason why the government has chosen to reject this recommendation of the Select Committee which would have strengthened the institution of Lokpal," Jaitley said.

He said the material collected against a public servant cannot be given to him during investigation or prior to investigation and his right to be heard is only at the stage of trial and not otherwise.

"The Select Committee had consciously deleted the provisions with regard to the Lokpal granting an opportunity of hearing to a public servant while deciding whether to embark upon an enquiry against the public servant or not," he said.

"Suddenness and surprise are the essence of an investigation. A public servant is interrogated and investigated in a criminal probe... The right of the public servant to be heard is only at the stage of trial and not otherwise," he said.

The other two suggestions made by Jaitley in the Select Committee to which the panel did not agree were related to the CBI director being ineligible for any re-employment with the government and not allowing any reservation based on religion.

The LoP had suggested that the an outgoing CBI director should not be offered a job in government and he should not be eligible for any such employment.

"The desire of a future favour can influence the CBI Director while conducting himself in the CBI. Unfortunately, this suggestion did not find favour with some colleagues in the committee. There is a strong rationale for acceptance of this suggestion... The desire of a future favour can be destructive of his independence," Jaitley said.

The Select Committee which did not find favour with his suggestion that reservation should not be based on religion, he said, "Only such reservations are permissible which are constitutionally provided for and are permissible.

"Any form of reservation which uses the word 'not less than' is capable of being understood to include 100 per cent reservation. Such a reservation shall be constitutionally ultra vires. Any form of reservation which is outside the constitutional scheme is vulnerable. The provision for reservation on basis of religion thus needs to be re-looked."

PTI