The Union Cabinet is expected to consider on Monday the much-awaited Lokpal Bill that is likely to bring prime minister under the proposed anti-graft ombudsman with certain conditions and provide for creation of an independent prosecution directorate.
The bill, which is expected to be tabled in Parliament before the end of the current session, is being fine-tuned by an informal group of ministers comprising Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, Home Minister P Chidambaram, Law Minister Salman Khurshid and MoS Personnel V Narayanasamy.
The Cabinet, which met on Sunday night, saw some deliberations on the legislation but the detailed note on the subject is expected to formally come up before Cabinet meeting on Monday, possibly in the evening. Prior to that, the ministers concerned are expected to brief Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on the changes being made in the Lokpal Bill, sources said.
While the bill will see incorporation of recommendations made by the Parliamentary Standing Committee, which examined it, the government has made it clear that it was open to other ideas that emanated at the all-party meeting convened by the prime minister on Wednesday.
"You all know that how many days are left (for Parliament session). We have literally worked day and night to ensure that we meet the deadlines," Law Minister Salman Khurshid told the media. "Let us just get the bill done and bring it to the Cabinet so that it can be brought before Parliament as quickly as possible," he said amid the looming threat of Anna Hazare to go on hunger strike from December 27 if the legislation is not enacted by then.
Referring to the various proposals floating around, Khurshid said, "The government is not taking up anything as outstanding view but fine-tuning keeping in mind the basic structure of the law... to ensure that we take public confidence with us because we are also determined and committed to a very powerful Lokpal Bill."
Among the provisions being considered is bringing the prime minister under the purview of the ombudsman with certain conditions, like the requirement of cognisance by three-fourth of the Lokpal bench about any complaint.
Notwithstanding the demands for bringing the Central Bureau of Investigation under Lokpal, the government is averse to this and instead is contemplating a provision for creating an independent "Directorate of Prosecution", carving it out from the CBI. Accordingly, the bill is likely to suggest that the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act be amended, sources said.
The bill is also expected to provide for removal of the Lokpal chairman or member if a joint complaint is made by at least 100 MPs. The legislation also is likely to provide for 50 per cent reservation to Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, OBCs, minorities and women in the Lokpal bench on the lines of demand raised by almost all the parties, except the Bharatiya Janata Party, at Wednesday's meeting, the sources said.
With regard to demand for inclusion of Group C employees, the sources said discussions are underway to create an "appropriate mechanism" for this. One of the suggestions in this regard is placing them under the purview of the Central Vigilance Commission who would be asked to report the progress on anti-corruption cases to Lokpal.
The Parliamentary Committee had recommended reservation for SCs, STs, OBCs, minorities and women in the search committee, which will assist the selection committee to select Lokpal. However, it was silent on reservation in the Lokpal.
If reservation is provided in the Lokpal panel, it will become the first Constitutional body to have the provision. On the issue of PM, the Standing Committee had refused to take a position but recommended three options inclusion without exception and qualifications, inclusion with no exclusionary caveats but after demitting office and inclusion with exclusions on issues like national security and foreign affairs and some others.
Making the CBI, or its anti-corruption wing, a part of Lokpal still remains a contentious issue. The Lokpal Bill introduced in the Lok Sabha in August this year says that "Lokpal shall constitute an investigationwWing for the purpose of conducting investigationof any offence alleged to have been committed by a public servant punishable under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988."
Several parties, however, are insisting that the CBI's anti-corruption wing should be under Lokpal to give it teeth. On the inclusion of Group C employees under the amit of Lokpal, one of the options with the government is recommendation of the Parliamentary Standing Committee which had recommended a "broad supervisory fusion at the apex level" by some changes in the CVC Act.
"The CVC should be made to file periodical reports, say every three months, to the Lokpal in respect of action taken for these Vlass C and D categories. On these reports, the Lokpal shall be entitled to make comments and suggestions for improvement and strengthening the functioning of CVC, which in turn, shall file, appropriate action taken reports with the Lokpal," it had recommended. It had also recommended "appropriate increase" in the strength of the CVC manpower.