Govt cheated on Lokpal bill: Hazare

Anna HazareJan Lokpal proponent and social activist Anna Hazare feels the government has cheated the public with the draft bill keeping the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) under the government's arm. Anna also slammed the bill for not including provision for setting up of Lokayukatas in states.

Hazare today threatened to return to Ramlila Maidan if the government fails to make amends and bring in a strong Lokpal bill.

His statement comes a day after the union cabinet cleared the Lokpal bill.

Meanwhile, team member Kiran Bedi, has been generally supportive of the bill. According to her, there was at least some anti-corruption mechanism in place, which is better than having nothing.

Hazare rejected the new draft as a betrayal by the government.

"This government has gone back on its assurances over the last two years. They have betrayed us. I will tour the country for the next two years to raise awareness against this government and if need be I will agitate at Ramlila Maidan again," Anna said.

The amended Lokpal Bill 2011 provides for selection of members of Lokpal by a selection committee comprising the prime minister, speaker (Lok Sabha), leader of the opposition (Rajya Sabha), Chief Justice of India or a Supreme Court judge nominated by CJI and an eminent jurist nominated by the President. 

The fifth member of the selection committee (an eminent jurist) may be nominated by the President on the basis of recommendation of the first four members of the committee.

The Lokpal will have jurisdiction over bodies receiving donations from public: Government, however, has decided to exempt such bodies or authorities established, constituted or appointed by or under any central or state or provincial Act providing for administration of public religious or charitable trusts or endowments or societies for religious or charitable purposes registered under the societies Registration Act.  Other non-governmental bodies receiving donation from the public would thus remain within the purview of the Lokpal.

Lokpal would be given power to order an investigation straightaway (without first ordering a preliminary inquiry) in case Lokpal finds that a prima facie case exists. 

Government has accepted this recommendation subject to the modification that the Lokpal should, before coming to a conclusion that there exists a prima facie case for entrusting the matter for investigation, call for the explanation of the public servant and then decide whether there exists a prima facie case for ordering investigation.

Opportunity of hearing to public servant: The select committee has recommended that the inquiry by the investigating agency should not be mandatory. It has also recommended that the opportunity of hearing by Lokpal before ordering investigation may be dispensed with. Since affording an opportunity to the public servant and to the government/competent authority at the preliminary inquiry stage and before ordering formal investigation would help clear doubts in several cases and would substantially reduce the number of cases going for regular investigation, the government has decided not to accept this recommendation and moved an official amendement for the purpose.

Power to order prosecution of public servants: The committee has recommended that the power to grant sanction for prosecution of public servants could be shifted to the Lokpal in place of the government.  It has also recommended that Lokpal may be required to seek comments of the competent authority and the public servant before taking such decision. Government has accepted this recommendation.

Strengthening of CBI: Instead of making the CBI autonomous, the select committee has recommended a number of amendments in the bill for strengthening the CBI. These include:

  • Setting up of a directorate of prosecution headed by a director of prosecution under the overall control of CBI director;
  • Appointment of the director of prosecution on the recommendation of the Central Vigilance Commission;
  • Maintenance of a panel of advocates by CBI, other than the government advocates, with the consent of the Lokpal for handling Lokpal referred cases;
  • Provision of adequate funds to CBI for investigating cases referred by Lokpal; and
  • Transfer of officers of CBI investigating cases referred by Lokpal with the approval of Lokpal.

Government has accepted all these recommendations except the last one, ie, seeking approval of Lokpal for transfer of officers of CBI investigating cases referred by the Lokpal, which is proposed not to be accepted, as it would affect the smooth functioning of the CBI.