Government on Saturday said prima facie it was opposed to the inclusion of Prime Minister under the ambit of Lokpal but was open to the idea to cover him once he demits office.
“Within the government, we feel prima facie, the Prime Minister should not be covered (under the Lokpal). But at the same time we want to make sure that if he demits office, he should not be exonerated from prosecution,” HRD Minister Sibal told in an interview.At the same time, he said the government will only decide on the issue after the draft bill goes to the Cabinet.
Sibal’s comments came two days ahead of the the final meeting of the joint drafting committee on Lokpal Bill.
However, he said, the five ministers in the joint drafting committee were willing to be persuaded to bring the Prime Minister under the ambit of the anti-corruption legislation if the civil society side gives a compelling argument.
While Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has publicly stated that he was open to the idea of bringing the post under the Lokpal, Sibal said it was not the question of “an individual, Manmohan Singh but it’s about an institution”.
Arguing against the inclusion of a Prime Minister in office under the ombudsman, the minister said, “Which Prime Minister in office anywhere in the world has been prosecuted in the world? Please tell me, please give me an example.”
He said people rallied behind Anna Hazare during his protest as they were upset with corruption but most of them do not know what is Lokpal Bill.
“Anna Hazare is like the ‘Pied Piper of Hamelin’. The tune is lilting and people were upset with corruption just as government is. We want to deal with it. But those who follow him, where they say corruption should be deal with, do not know what the Lokpal Bill is,” he said.
Sibal said the differences with the civil society were “not reconcilable” as negotiations were meant to bridge differences and not for increasing differences.
“We will try and resolve as much (differences) as possible…When the hurdle comes, we will see…The question is the extent of the area the Lokpal wishes to occupy,” he said.
Sibal said there was no dispute on having an independent Lokpal outside the government with powers to carry out independent investigation and prosecution.
There was also no need for government sanction for prosecuting public servants, he said.
“There are huge areas of agreements which are not placed in public domain,” he said in veiled reference to civil society members’ claims that there were large areas of disagreement.
The Minister was of the view that the Lokpal should deal with corruption cases at higher level, otherwise covering 40 lakh odd central government employees would require a massive infrastructure independent of government.
“Lets limit it. There are mechanism to deal with corruption in lower levels. Lets strengthen it. It should not be something which is unmanageable,” he said.
Sibal said till new people were recruited, the Lokpal has to draw people from present structure, which according to the civil society are corrupt.
“Then how will they become pure, how will they change.”
He also said the government was flexible on the issue of inclusion of officials below Joint Secretary level under the Lokpal.
However, he was not in favour of bringing CBI and CVC under Lokpal saying, “necessarily there was no need to destroy CBI (or CVC)” while having a separate investigation wing for the ombudsman.
Sibal said the Law Ministry draft bill on Lokpal Bill was not government’s view as it had not passed through the stage of inter-ministerial consultations.
He said a single draft will go to the cabinet with points of agreements while areas where there are differences will go with both the view points.
When pointed out that Hazare has threatened to go on fast if a desired bill is not passed, he said he would not comment on what the Gandhian does.