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Rediff News  All News  » News » Logjam over Lokpal bill continues

Logjam over Lokpal bill continues

Last updated on: June 21, 2011 01:29 IST

Differences between the government and representatives of civil society continued over provisions in the Lokpal Bill, even as the Manmohan Singh government was further in the dock over a quietly executed decision of removing the Central Bureau of Investigation from the purview of the Right to Information.

The decision was kept under wraps and only came to light after an RTI was filed by activist Subhash Aggrawal where he was told that the CBI has now been kept out of the RTI.

It is learnt that the decision was taken in a meeting on June 9 which was attended by the cabinet secretary, the principal secretary to the prime minister, the Department of Personnel and Training secretary and the minister of state in the Prime Minister's Office V Narayanswamy.

A source said that the decision was taken with the full backing and consent of the prime minister.

The CBI has been handling a large number of politically sensitive cases, many of them dealing with corruption. The decision to draw a veil of secrecy over the actions and the functioning of the CBI is set to bring the government under a great deal of criticism.

This is at a time when the government is snowed under charges of aiding and abetting not only corrupt ministers, but also their corrupt working.

When asked to comment, a Congress spokesperson said that a debate was on, and regardless of whether the CBI should be open to public scrutiny or in the interest of fair working, some parts of its functioning should be opaque.

It may be recalled that when RTI was first put in the public domain, the prime minister was opposed to it but subsequently the Congress president and the National Advisory Council put enough pressure, and it was passed by Parliament and enacted into a law.

On the issue of corruption, however, the government and Team Anna were still grappling over the Lokpal Bill with the government backed by the Congress party of the adamant view that the prime minister, the judiciary, the lower levels of the bureaucracy and the conduct of the members of Parliament cannot be brought under the ombudsman.

The government has now said that investigations on charges made against the prime minister can be investigated only after he demits office.

Fresh issues came up with the government saying that the appointing authority for the Lokpal should only be the government and if a complaint has to be moved against the Lokpal in the Supreme Court, it should again be by the government.

The government is also not ready to bring in the CBI and the Central Vigilance Commissioner under the Lokpal and does not want to give it prosecution powers.

Congress leaders argued that giving excessive powers to the Lokpal may invite anarchy. They also admitted that the government made basic mistakes in the handling of the Anna Hazare agitation against corruption, and the 'tough' approach being adopted today should have been taken earlier.

Meanwhile, a senior leader said that the murmurings in the party on the 'inability of the prime minister to handle a crisis should be seen in this context and time has come for him to make way for a new leader.'

But the party sought to put a lid on this by officially stating that Dr Manmohan Singh has done a good job in the last seven years and will continue as the prime minister though it was not specified till when.

The source added that party general secretary Rahul Gandhi was the leader of the future for not only the party, but the country as well, but it was up to Rahul himself, the Congress leadership and the people of the country to decide when that would happen.

It was different from last year when both Sonia Gandhi and Rahul had asked senior partymen such as Arjun Singh not to make statements about Rahul becoming PM at a time when there was no vacancy.

In a related incident, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamta Banerjee, who is currently in Delhi, said that she is against corruption but also against dramabaazi. She has indicated her support for the government on the Lokpal.

Akali Dal leader and Punjab CM Prakash Singh Badal has said he is against bringing the PM under the Lokpal. Similar stance has been taken by Shiv Sena leader Bal Thackeray.

The government is hoping to use these divisions to get its way and work up support

both in the all party meeting and the Parliament. Tuesday will see the last meeting of the Lokpal committee after which it would go to the Cabinet to be drafted and circulated to political parties.
Renu Mittal in New Delhi