The Delhi Cabinet on Monday cleared the draft of the much talked-about Jan Lokpal bill which provides for covering all public servants -- from chief minister to Group D employees -- and seeks life term as maximum punishment for those found guilty of corruption.
The bill provides for a legal right of protection to "honest" officials, whistleblowers and witnesses besides having provisions for time-bound investigation and trial of corruption cases.
The draft bill was cleared at a cabinet meeting presided over by Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal. Bringing the Jan Lokpal bill to contain corruption was a key election promise made to the voters by the Aam Aadmi Party.
Delhi Public Works Department Minister Manish Sisodia said no provision for any "special privileges" for even the chief minister and council of ministers has been proposed in the bill when it comes to cracking down on corruption.
He said government will not send the bill to the Union Ministry of Home Affairs for approval. Sources said the law department had mentioned in its noting that there as per existing norms, Delhi government has to get clearance from the MHA before tabling any bill.
"This is one of the most widely debated bills in India's parliamentary history over the last few decades and Delhi government is of the view that it has come up with an effective bill to restore the public confidence in its elected representatives and other public servants," he told reporters after the cabinet meeting.
He said bill approved by the Delhi cabinet provides for "certainty and swiftness" of punishment to those found involved in graft.
The minister said selection panel for appointment of Lokpal chairperson and members will be "transparent" and free of political control. The seven member panel will have the chief minister as the government nominee.
"The only law which comes closest to this bill is the bill passed by the Uttarakhand assembly in 2011, but it too had some limitations in filing complaints against the CM and ministers. This bill for the first time provides a legal right of protection for the whistleblowers and witnesses in corruption cases," Sisodia said.
Asked whether the bill will at least be sent to the Lt Governor for clearance, Sisodia only said it will be tabled in the House.
When asked whether Delhi Police, Delhi Development Authoryt and New Delhi Municipal Corporation will come under ambit of Jan Lokpal, he refused to reply. But officials said as these three bodies come under the purview of Delhi government's anti-corruption bureau, they will automatically come under the ambit of the proposed legislation when the ACB is merged with the Lokpal.
This provision may be opposed by the Centre as all the three agencies report directly to the MHA. The law department is understood to have expressed reservation about bringing the three agencies under the ambit of the proposed law.
The Lokpal institution will have a chairperson and 10 members. At least one-third of the members should have extensive outstanding knowledge of law.
The Lokpal chairperson and members will be selected by a panel comprising the chief minister, leader of the opposition in the assembly, two judges of the high court, one previous Lokayukta and two eminent citizens to be selected by other members of the selection committee.
The two judges in the selection panel will have to be selected in a full court meeting.
The AAP government has already decided to convene a special session of the assembly from February 13 to 16 to debate and clear the bill. It proposed to hold last day's proceedings at the Indira Gandhi indoor stadium instead of historic Ramlila ground as announced earlier.
Sisodia said the bill also provides for special awards to "honest officers" every year and other incentives.
According to provisions of the Bill, Lokpal will have the power to initiate an investigation on its own or on a complaint from an individual.
The punishment in cases of corruption will range from six months to 10 years and life imprisonment in rarest of rare cases.
If the beneficiary of an offence is a business entity, in addition to the punishment provided under this law, the guilty will have to pay a fine up to five times the loss caused to the public exchequer.
According to the provision, the tenure of Lokpal chairperson and members will be of seven years.
There will be two wings of the Lokayukta, an investigation wing and a prosecution wing. They will be independent from the government.
"The Cabinet thanked the government officers who worked day and night to finalise the draft bill for meeting the deadline of the assembly session," Sisodia said.
Image: Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal and minister Manish Sisodia
Photograph: Anindito Mukherjee/Reuters