The government draft on Lokpal Bill, which is expected to be considered by the Cabinet this week, does not include the Prime Minister in the purview of the Ombudsman but the final call on the ticklish issue will be taken by Parliament and its Standing Committee.
Disclosing this, Home Minister P Chidambaram said the bill will be introduced in Parliament in the Monsoon session starting on August one.
The government’s draft has been prepared by the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT), which is the nodal ministry, and the issue is likely come up before Cabinet this week or early next week.“Once the Cabinet approves the draft, with or without changes, that is the government’s draft that will be introduced in Parliament. So we will introduce the Lokpal Bill in the Monsoon session of Parliament,” he told a news agency in New Delhi.
On the controversial question of bringing the Prime Minister’s post in the ambit of Lokpal, Chidambaram said, “According to present thinking, and subject to change by the Cabinet, the government’s draft keeps out the Prime Minister. …Our considered view at the moment, subject to change by the Cabinet, is that the PM should be kept out of Lokpal.”
The Home Minister noted that there are several arguments for and against keeping the Prime Minister out of the ambit of the anti-corruption watchdog.
“Each one is a reasonable point of view. Ultimately, it is for the government to adpot a point of view and introduce it in Parliament. The Standing Committee can change it, Parliament can change it,” he underlined.
“I am willing to acknowledge your point of view is reasonable. But I have got reasons why I take a point of view. And if you are in government, you take that view and introduce it in Parliament,” Chidambaram said in apparent reference to Anna Hazare-led civil society activists who insist on inclusion of PM in the ambit of Lokpal.
“I am not able to understand why people should say my point of view is the reasonable point of view and yours is unreasonable. That I don’t agree at all,” he said.
He said the government was not “tampering” with any other law. “Whatever other law is there let the law be there,” he said apparently hinting at the Prevention of Corruption Act which covers the Prime Minister.
Turning to the Joint Drafting Committee which failed to arrive at a common draft for the bill, the Home Minister said the government representatives and civil society representatives “indeed” had points of difference, but there are also dozens of points of agreement.
He said the points of agreement included an independent investigating arm under Lokpal, independent people as part of the selection committee for Lokpal and a five-year term for the ombudsman.
“Of course there are points of agreement and there are points of disagreement. So ultimately what emerged was two drafts. Now, the all-party meeting said we are not concerned with two drafts, we want to see the government’s draft,” he said.