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Corporates, media in; PM, judiciary out of Lokpal purview?

Last updated on: November 29, 2011 00:06 IST

Corporates, media in; PM, judiciary out of Lokpal purview?

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The Parliamentary Standing Committee going into the Lokpal Bill has recommended keeping the judiciary and the MPs' conduct in the House out of its purview and rejected the demand for hiving off the anti-corruption wing of the Central Bureau of Investigation to come under its jurisdiction.

 

Members have unanimously recommended conferring constitutional status on the Lokpal and setting up of Lokpal and Lokayuktas in states under one legislation.

 

The draft report on the Bill, which has been circulated to members and would come up for finalisation on November 30, favours Lokpal's jurisdiction over corporates, media and NGOs in so far as receipt of donations from public within the country or from foreign sources.


However, even the draft document has not taken a position on inclusion of Prime Minister in the ambit of Lokpal. The issue will be considered in the Wednesday meeting.

 

Team Anna member Kiran Bedi expressed disappointment at the recommendations in the draft report of Standing Committee on Lokpal Bill, saying going back on commitment given by Parliament will call for mass movement again.

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Various options, including inclusion of Prime Minister with safeguards and coverage after demitting office, have been suggested.

 

Another of Team Anna's demand for inclusion of entire bureaucracy has been turned down with the draft report only favouring inclusion of Group B, along with Group A officials and leaving out the entire C and D staff.

 

Vis-a-vis Team Anna's demand for scrapping Article 311 of the Constitution that gives protection to government servants against summary dismissal, the draft report favours a "close and careful relook" to ensure major obstacles in taking legitimate departmental action against delinquent officials are eliminated.

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The report said bureaucratic corruption has been relatively ignored in the context of excessive media and civil society focus on political corruption, coupled with the doctrine of civil service anonymity, which India imported from the colonial rule.

 

Referring to the media, NGOs and corporates, the draft report said if the domestic and foreign funds are above Rs 10 lakh per annum such organisations -- whether controlled by government or not - should be covered under Lokpal.

 

"It is thus clear that corporates, media or NGOs should and would be covered only to the above extent and not otherwise," the draft said.

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On the sensitive issue of inclusion of the Prime Minister, the report has not mentioned the 'reasons and recommendations' in the chapter on the subject.

Members have been informed through a letter that the same will be framed and added in the report following discussions on the ticklish issue when the committee meets on November 30 and December 1.

 

While Team Anna has demanded the inclusion of the judiciary, the draft report said the end result would be the possible and potential prosecution of even an apex court judge before the relevant magistrate exercising the relevant jurisdiction.

 

"...This would lead to an extraordinarily piquant and an untenable situation and would undermine judicial independence at its very root," the report said identifying the judiciary as a "separate and distinct organ" of the State.

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The report recalled its recommendations on the Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill, 2010, and said the judiciary cannot be left unpoliced and reiterated that the process of judicial appointments be revisited through a fresh legislation.
 
On the issue of inclusion of the conduct of MPs inside Parliament, the committee, while rejecting the demand, said the constitutional safeguards given to MPs under Article 105 are sacrosanct and time-tested.

It said given the near unanimity in the committee and among political parties, it was necessary to retain the safeguard and keep the conduct of MPs inside Parliament outside the ambit of Lokpal.

"Even an investigation as to whether vote, speech or conduct in a particular case involves or does not involve corrupt practice would whittle down such unfettered autonomy and independence within the Houses of Parliament down to vanishing point," the draft report said.

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Favouring constitutional status for Lokpal, the committee has recommended that it can be achieved by a constitutional amendment.

 

It said the details can be left in the new proposed statute which the committee was opining.

 

"This constitutional amendment does not require ratification by not less than half of the state legislatures since it does not seek to make any change in any of the provisions listed in the second provisio to Article 368 (2) of the Indian Constitution," the draft read.

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On creation of Lokpal at the Centre and Lokayuktas in states, it gives the example of the National Human Rights Commission and the State Human Rights Commissions which were created by a single Act - Protection of the Human Rights Act, 1986.

 

Supporting a single stroke mechanism to create Lokpal and Lokayuktas, it said such implementing legislation is recognised by Article 253 and is treated as one in List III of the 7th Schedule.

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On the role of CBI and CVC vis-a-vis Lokpal, the report recommends a five-stage mechanism.

In the first stage, a complaint must be received by the Lokpal who would hold a preliminary inquiry in stage 2.

If a case is made out, it would be referred to CBI in stage 3 which will investigate independently of the Lokpal or ministries.

 

In stage 4, the case would go to the Directorate of Prosecution which will be under the superentendence of Lokpal. In the 5th and last stage, the case would go to a special judge or a Lokpal Judge.

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