Delhi to have graft watchdog by February, says Kejriwal

Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal said on Thursday his Aam Admi Party (AAP) will bring a Jan Lokpal bill for an anti-corruption watchdog by the first week of February.

"A committee was formed today with the responsibility of drafting the Jan Lokpal bill. The committee will submit the draft by 15 January. We will try to pass the bill by the last week of January or first week of February from (New Delhi's public) Ramlila Ground," Kejriwal told reporters.

The committee is headed by the Delhi chief secretary. Other members are the secretaries to the urban development, law, and finance departments, as well as advocate Rahul Mehra. The committee has the freedom to co-opt other officials.

In its election manifesto, the Aam Aadmi Party had promised passage of the anti-graft bill on 29 December through a special session of the Delhi assembly.

Soon after he won a vote of confidence in the assembly in December last year, Kejriwal termed the passage of the Jan Lokpal bill as the "most important issue" on the agenda of his government.

The Jan Lokpal bill is the AAP's version of the Lokpal, a graft watchdog with all-India powers, as advocated by crusader Anna Hazare. Kejriwal was a close associate of Hazare before he went on to take the political route for social reform.

The chief minister has already announced decisions on reducing water and power tariffs, fulfilling another of the AAP's pre-election promises.

Kejriwal said the Lokayukta would be a totally independent body. "At present, the anti-corruption branch is with the Delhi Police. This branch will be transferred to the Lokayukta," Kejriwal said, adding that the chief minister would enjoy no kind of immunity.