New Delhi: Brushing aside questions of legislative competence, government on Thursday introduced in the Lok Sabha a historic bill for inquiring into corruption by Prime Minister, Ministers, MPs and its employees but buckled under pressure from non-BJP parties to restore the provision of quota for minorities. It, however, did not yield to civil society's demand for control over CBI by Lokpal which can only refer to the agency complaints received by it. (Agencies)
Minister of State for Personnel V Narayanasamy tabled 'The Lokpal and Lokayuktas Bill, 2011' that also mandates the states to appoint a Lokayukta along with a Constitution (Amendment) Bill to provide Constitutional status for both Lokpal and Lokayuktas.
The introduction of the bill was preceded by high drama when non-BJP parties forced the government to restore the provision for reservation for minorities in the 50 per cent quota for appointment to the nine-member Lokpal Bench, which was dropped last night by the government after consultations with BJP.
Raising questions before introduction during a 90-minute debate, Leader of Opposition Sushma Swaraj attacked the reservation for minorities and the mandatory provision of creation of Lokayuktas as infringing on the states' rights while parties like the RJD, SP, AIMIM and AIADMK opposed bringing Prime Minister under the purview of a body which would be "accountable to nobody".
Shiv Sena, which questioned the very need for Lokpal, RJD, BJD, AIMIM and AIADMK opposed the mandatory provision of Lokayuktas saying it was an attack on the federal structure of the Constitution.
The non-BJP parties questioned the tearing hurry with which the government was going through with passage of these bills under pressure and threat of agitation from Anna Hazare- led civil society.
Taking the floor in defence of the government, Leader of the House and Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee dismissed criticism that the measures were being brought in "undue haste" and saying that the government was under "no duress".
"If you feel it is not necessary, we will not have it. Legislation is the domain of Parliament. It is not made on the 'dharna manch' or on the streets," he said.
The Minister said it was the Constitutional responsibility of the House to pass a law. "It is for the judiciary to pick holes. Let this House not assume the role of judiciary," he said.
After the Minister's reply to the impromptu debate, the House allowed introduction of the Lokpal Bill by voice vote. The government also withdrew the Lokpal bill introduced in August this year.
After 43 years and nine attempts, the Lokpal bill may finally come up for discussion in the Parliament when it resumes after the Christmas break on December 27.
The financial memorandum attached to the 97 clause, 65 page bill says that while it is not possible to give the precise details of the expenditure to be incurred on Lokpal at this stage, it is expected that it would involve a non-recurring expenditure of Rs 100 crore and a recurring expenditure of Rs 200 crore in a financial year.
An additional expenditure of Rs 400 crore would be needed if it becomes necessary to construct a building to house the establishment of the Lokpal. After the non-BJP parties attacked the government over dropping of the provision for minority quota in the nine- member Lokpal Bench and in the Search Committee and forced adjournment of the House, the Congress Core Group chaired by party chief Sonia Gandhi met in Parliament House to reverse the decision.
On Wednesday, a three-member delegation led by L K Advani had met Mukherjee and raised the issue of Constitutional validity of the reservation for minorities on the basis of religion following which the government decided to drop it.
The issue came up at a dinner dinner Congress chief Gandhi hosted for party MPs last night. She is understood to have asked why the government has decided to drop the provision and expressed her apprehensions that the move may come in for attack from parties in the Parliament.
However, BJP member Yashwant Sinha questioned the amendment on the minoroties provision through a corrigenda saying only spelling mistakes and grammar can be corrected in such a way.
"Corrigenda is used for correcting spelling mistakes and not to move amendments to a Bill," he said attacking the "monumental inefficiency" of the government.
The Lokpal Bill provides for setting up of a Lokpal consisting of a Chairperson and a maximum of eight Members of which fifty percent shall be judicial Members.
50 percent of members of Lokpal shall be from amongst SC, ST, OBCs, minorities and women.
There shall be an Inquiry Wing of the Lokpal for conducting the preliminary inquiry and an independent Prosecution Wing. Officers of the Lokpal will include the Secretary, Director of Prosecution, Director of Inquiry and other officers. Focusing on improving accountability, the Lokpal and Lokayuktas in states will be autonomous and independent bodies with powers of superintendence and direction for holding a preliminary inquiry, causing an investigation to be made and prosecution of offences in respect of complaints under any law for the prevention of corruption.
The Bill provides a uniform vigilance and anti corruption road map for the nation, both at Centre and States.
It also institutionalises separation of investigation from prosecution and thereby removing conflict of interest as well as increasing the scope for professionalism and specialisation.
The selection of Chairperson and Members of Lokpal shall be through a Selection Committee consisting of Prime Minister, Speaker and the Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha, Chief Justice of India or a sitting Supreme Court Judge nominated by CJI, and eminent jurist to be nominated by the President.
A Search Committee to assist Selection Committee in the process of selection will also be set up. 50 per cent of members of Search Committee shall be from amongst SC, ST, OBCs, Minorities and Women.
The Prime Minister will be brought under the purview of the Lokpal with subject matter exclusions and specific process for handling complaints against the Prime Minister.
Lokpal can not hold any inquiry against the Prime Minister if allegations relate to international relations, external and internal security of the country, public order, atomic energy and space
Lokpal's jurisdiction will include all categories of public servants including Group A, B, C and D officers and employees of government.
On complaints referred to CVC by Lokpal, the CVC will send its report of preliminary enquiry in respect of Group 'A' and 'B' officers back to Lokpal for further decision.
With respect to Group 'C' and 'D' employees, CVC will proceed further in exercise of its own powers under the CVC Act subject to reporting and review by Lokpal.
All entities receiving donations from foreign source in the context of the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) above Rs 10 lakh per year are also brought under the jurisdiction of Lokpal.
However, Lokpal will not be able to initiate inquiry suo moto.
The Bill does not make any specific mention of NGOs and media in this regard while the Parliamentary Standing Committee that went into the Lokpal Bill talked of Lokpal going into donations received by NGOs and media.
No prior sanction will be required for launching prosecution in cases enquired by Lokpal or initiated on the direction and with the approval of Lokpal.
An important provision in the bill is constitution of a high powered committee chaired by Prime Minister with Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha and Chief Justice of India as members to recommend selection of the Director of CBI.
Lokpal will have the power of superintendence and direction over any investigation agency including CBI for cases referred to them.
There are provisions for confiscation of property acquired by corrupt means even while prosecution is pending.
Lokpal will be the final appellate authority on all decisions by public authorities relating to provision of public services and redressal of grievances containing findings of corruption.
The Bill lays down clear time lines for preliminary enquiry which will be three months extendable by three months, investigation to be done by six months extendable by six months.
Trial should be completed in one year and can be extended by another year.
The Bill proposes to enhance punishment under Prevention of Corruption Act with maximum punishment from 7 years to 10 years and minimum punishment from 6 months to 2 years.
The Bill also proposes to give legal backing to asset declaration by public servants.
The Bill also seeks to make necessary consequential amendments in the Commissions of Inquiry Act, 1952, the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, the Central Vigilance Commission Act, 2003, and the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, 1946.
New Delhi: Brushing aside questions of legislative competence, government on Thursday introduced in the Lok Sabha a historic bill for inquiring into corruption by Prime Minister, Ministers, MPs and its employees but buckled under pressure from non-BJP parties to restore the provision of quota for minorities.
It, however, did not yield to civil society's demand for control over CBI by Lokpal which can only refer to the agency complaints received by it.