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Govt opposed to inclusion of PM under Lokpal: Sibal

Last updated on: June 18, 2011 13:12 IST

Govt opposed to inclusion of PM under Lokpal: Sibal

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The government on Saturday said prima facie it was opposed to the inclusion of the prime minister under the ambit of Lokpal but was open to the idea of covering him once he demits office.

"Within the government, we feel prima facie, the prime minister should not be covered under the Lokpal. But at the same time we want to make sure that if he demits office, he should not be exonerated from prosecution," Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal told Karan Thapar in CNN-IBN's Devil's Advocate programme.

At the same time, he said the government will only decide on the issue after the draft bill goes to the Cabinet.

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Image: Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh

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'Will agree on PM's inclusion if civil society's argument is compelling'

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Sibal's comments came two days ahead of the final meeting of the joint drafting committee on Lokpal Bill. However, he said, the five ministers in the joint drafting committee were willing to be persuaded to bring the prime minister under the ambit of the anti-corruption legislation if the civil society side gives a compelling argument.

While Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh has publicly stated that he was open to the idea of bringing the post under the Lokpal, Sibal said it was not the question of "an individual, Manmohan Singh but it's about an institution".

Arguing against the inclusion of a prime minister in office under the ombudsman, the minister said, "Which prime minister in office anywhere in the world has been prosecuted? Please tell me, please give me an example."

Image: HRD Minister Kapil Sibal

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'Hazare's followers do not know what Lokpal Bill is'

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Sibal said people rallied behind Anna Hazare during his protest as they were upset with corruption but most of them do not know what is Lokpal Bill. "Anna Hazare is like the 'Pied Piper of Hamelin'.

The tune is lilting and people were upset with corruption just as government is. We want to deal with it. But those who follow him, where they say corruption should be deal with, do not know what the Lokpal Bill is," he said.

Image: A supporter of Anna Hazare

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'No dispute on independent Lokpal'

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Sibal said the differences with the civil society were "not reconcilable" as negotiations were meant to bridge differences and not for increasing differences. "We will try and resolve as much differences as possible. When the hurdle comes, we will see. The question is the extent of the area the Lokpal wishes to occupy," he said.

Sibal said there was no dispute on having an independent Lokpal outside the government with powers to carry out independent investigation and prosecution. There was also no need for government sanction for prosecuting public servants, he said.

"There are huge areas of agreements which are not placed in public domain," he said in a veiled reference to civil society members' claims that there were large areas of disagreement.

Image: Anna Hazare with IPS-officer-turned social activist Kiran Bedi

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'Not in favour of bringing CBI, CVC under Lokpal'

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The minister was of the view that the Lokpal should deal with corruption cases at higher level, otherwise covering 40 lakh odd central government employees would require a massive infrastructure independent of government. "Lets limit it. There are mechanisms to deal with corruption in lower levels. Lets strengthen it. It should not be something which is unmanageable," he said.

Sibal said till new people were recruited, the Lokpal has to draw people from present structure, which according to the civil society are corrupt. "Then how will they become pure, how will they change."

He also said the government was flexible on the issue of inclusion of officials below joint secretary level under the Lokpal. However, he was not in favour of bringing CBI and CVC under Lokpal saying, "necessarily there was no need to destroy CBI" while having a separate investigation wing for the ombudsman.

Image: The CBI office in New Delhi

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