CBI out of Lokpal's ambit; Team Anna irked
The government has finalised its version of the Lokpal bill and will table it later this week. Early reports of its contents have been rejected by Team Anna.
The government team which the Law Minister claimed was working day and night on the Lokpal draft bill, has finished and forwarded it to the Prime Minister. The draft has been cleared by the prime minister and will be taken up by the cabinet which meets this evening. The bill is scheduled to be tabled in Parliament on 27 December, although there is a possibility that it may be tabled earlier, as the BSP and Shiv Sena have protested the extension of the Winter Session.
"The time has been allocated for the Bill. It is for the Government to fix any date. There is no delay on part of the Government. The Bill is ready. Members of Parliament felt session needs to be extended, so it has been," said Bansal.
The bone of contention though still remains the CBI and the debate in Parliament is expected to be stormy. Team Anna wants the CBI to be brought under the ambit of Lokpal so that the ombudsman will have the power to both investigate and prosecute. But early reports on the contents of the draft indicate that the Lokpal is empowered to inquire and not investigate. In other words, if a complaint is placed before the Lokpal it will have to refer the case to an investigative agency like the CBI and it is in only such cases that the Lokpal can prosecute. The Lokpal cannot take up cases on its own.
Reports on the draft bill also seem to suggest that the directorate of prosecution will stay with the CBI. On the issue of rejecting a Lokpal, the draft suggests that impeachment of a Lokpal can happen only if 100 or more MPs write to the President on the issue.
With regards to the issue of the Prime Minister being brought under the ambit of the Lokpal, the draft reportedly states that the Prime Minister can be investigated by the Lokpal only if a two third majority in parliament vet a complaint against him/her. It also states that issues relating to national security, internal security, foreign affairs etc will be kept out of the investigations.
A separate mechanism for dealing with corruption in Group C and D is also being evolved.
Team Anna has outright rejected the reported contents of the bill on the basis that the government would still control the CBI. "The govt is making a fool of the nation. The government's intentions are unholy. When we see the final bill we will take a call", Arvind Kejriwal said.
"Demand for Lokpal started due to compelling need for independent investigation agency. If status quo is to be kept then what's the effort for?" Kiran Bedi tweeted
"If Lokpal will not have administrative control and remains only investigating agency then there is no point in having a Lokpal. If the government is controlling it (CBI), then there is conflict of interest. Therefore agency which has no independence will have no use. The government have the power of posting, promotion etc and they can influence the agency," said Prashant Bhushan.
"It is unacceptable to us. This will leave us with no option but for Anna to go on fast. The selection committee has been narrowed down. We suggested broad based committee for selection. It is totally rejected by us. There can be no compromise on these issues," he said.
The BJP meanwhile has not clarified its stand on the issue of bringing CBI under the Lokpal, although it has been demanding that the CBI be an independent investigative agency.
At the moment the CBI is under the Department of Personnel and Training, which has adminstrative and financial control over the investigative agency.
Anna Hazare had given the government an ultimatum to the government that the Lokpal be passed in the Winter Session. He had threatened that he would go on an indefinite hunger strike starting December 27.
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