Cabinet clears Lokpal Bill; dodges CBI autonomy

The union cabinet today cleared the new revised Lokpal Bill for a central corruption watchdog even though the law ministry reportedly raised objections to the draft. The amended draft leaves the appointment of Lokayuktas (state-level ombudsmen) to the states.

The new bill also has extra protection for public servants giving them the right to present their view to the Lokpal. Here, the law ministry believes bureaucrats should not have the right to be heard first, according to IBN.

The Rajya Sabha select committee had also said that the Lokpal could order a probe straightaway. Non-government Organisations, except religious organisations, will come under the purview of the Lokpal.

According to another report in The Telegraph, the government appears to have accepted many crucial recommendations of the Rajya Sabha select committee on the Lokpal and Lokayuktas bill and even taken tentative steps towards ensuring the autonomy of the Central Bureau of Investigation.

But the appointment of the CBI director is set to remain a bone of contention as the committee's unanimous suggestion to institute a collegium comprising the prime minister, the Lok Sabha opposition leader and the Chief Justice of India for this has been rejected.

In any case, an unmoved Anna Hazare, the crusading campaigner for such a bill, is in no mood to accept the government's version and has today launched a fresh 'Jantantra' movement for a stronger bill.

His former close associate Arvind Kejriwal, who broke away from Hazare to form a political party, the Aam Admi Party, also slammed the government's version of the bill.

"Why does the government not fulfill one single demand and make the CBI independent? There is no point making committees after committees," said the AAP convenor.