New Delhi: The government on Thursday amended the controversial Lokpal Bill, delinking it from the setting up of Lokayuktas in the states and transferring powers of sanction of prosecution against public servant to the ombudsman.
The Union Cabinet accepted 14 of the 16 recommendations made by the Rajya Sabha Select Committee, which was set up in May last year amid sharp differences among political parties because of which the legislation was stuck in the Upper House since December 2011.
The approval of the official amendments paves the way for consideration of the bill afresh by the Rajya Sabha during the Budget Session expected to begin towards the end of February.
After getting a nod from the Upper House, the bill with amendments will go back for fresh approval to Lok Sabha where it has already been passed.
The government, however, did not accept the recommendation wherein an accused public servant would get no chance to present his view before preliminary inquiry is initiated.
It also did not accept the recommendation that transfer of CBI officers assigned by Lokpal to investigate a case cannot be transferred without the approval of the anti-graft watchdog, saying it will affect the smooth functioning of CBI.
Among the recommendations accepted by the government is the one about delinking Lokayukta from the Lokpal Bill, an issue which was one of the most controversial provisions with several parties contending that it amounts to the central government encroaching upon the rights of the states.
The select committee had recommended that the state governments will have to set up Lokayuktas within one year of enactment of Lokpal.
The bill will have the provision of appointment of CBI Director by a three-member collegium comprising the Prime Minister, Leader of the Opposition in Lok Sabha and the Chief Justice of India.
Explaining the provision on the appointment of CBI chief, Minister of State for Personnel V Narayanasamy said the clause already existed in the Lokpal Bill passed by Lok Sabha.
Asked why the select committee made a recommendation which was already part of the bill, he said, "May be the committee wanted to reaffirm its stand on the issue."
The government accepted the recommendation of the committee that the power to grant sanction for prosecution of public servants could be shifted to Lokpal in place of the government.
It also agreed with the recommendation that Lokpal may be required to seek comments of the competent authority and the public servant before taking such a decision.
The Rajya Sabha panel had recommended exclusion of bodies and institutions receiving donations from the public from the purview of Lokpal.
Since bodies receiving donations from the public were also covered in the original Lokpal Bill, the government has not accepted the recommendation.
But, at the same time, it was decided to exempt only bodies or authorities established under a central or state act providing for administration of public, religious or charitable trusts registered under the Societies Registration
The panel had recommended that seeking of comments from public servant during preliminary enquiry should not be mandatory. But the government felt that providing an opportunity to public servant and to the government at that stage would help clear doubts in several cases and would substantially reduce the number of cases going for regular investigation.
Anna rejects UPA’s Lokpal Bill
Anna Hazare today rejected the amended Lokpal bill approved by the Union Cabinet as a "farce" and announced he will launch another agitation if the government went ahead with the enactment of a "weak" legislation.
"Both PM and Sonia Gandhi can no more be trusted to bring a stringent Lokpal bill to root out corruption ... Had they been committed to the issue it would not have taken two years to take a concrete decision in this regard," Hazare told reporters here.
Hazare while describing the Lokpal Bill approved by the Union Cabinet as "a farce" said he had written a letter to Sonia in reply to her letter to him seeking clarification whether the proposed bill will be a stringent one and whether
CBI and the CVC will be kept out of the government's control.
Govt not serious on making Lokpal appointment free: BJP
BJP accused the government of not being serious on the crucial issues of making the process of appointment of Lokpal free from government control and for providing autonomy to CBI.
The party also questioned the government's right to make amendments in the Lokpal Bill even when the Bill was the property of the Rajya Sabha, saying any change can be only met by the Upper House in terms of Parliamentary procedure.
"The process of appointment of Lokpal must be transparent and free from government control. The autonomy of the investigating body while investigating cases of corruption is of crucial importance. I regret to say that whatever we heard from the government today raises serious questions about that," BJP Chief Spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad said.