Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Cabinet approves Lokpal draft, CBI out of its control (ToI)

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The Union cabinet on Tuesday approved the much-awaited Lokpal bill after a two-hour special meeting, official sources said. The cabinet met in the parliament house complex under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Refusing to yield to Anna Hazare's demand, the government has kept CBI out of the control of Lokpal and decided not to hive off the Directorate of Prosecution from the investigative agency.

The Lokpal, with Constitutional status, will, however, have superintendence over the cases referred to CBI by the anti-graft ombudsman, according to the draft bill that was considered by the Union Cabinet at a special meeting tonight.

The watchdog will have the powers to carry out preliminary inquiry to be headed by a Director of Inquiry and will have a prosecution wing under a Director.

The Lokpal, which will be an eight-member body, will have a term of five years and its chairman or a member can be impeached only after at least 100 MPs make a representation.

Departing from the original bill, the government has now proposed 50% reservation for SC/ST, OBCs, Minorities and Women in the Lokpal bench and in the search committee.

Half of the bench would be members from judicial background, sources told PTI.

The Lokpal and the members will be selected by a Committee consisting of the Prime Minister, Lok Sabha Speaker, Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha, Chief Justice of India or a Supreme Court judge nominated by him and a jurist of eminence nominated by the President.

Under the proposals, the Prime Minister will be under the purview of the Lokpal with certain safeguards that will keep out aspects like international relations, public order, atomic energy, space, internal and external security from the inquiry.

Probe on any complaint against the Prime Minister will be decided by the full bench, of which at least three-fourth should agree.

The probe will in-camera and if a complaint is dismissed, the records on it should not be made public.

Another important provision in the bill is the change in the mode of appointment of CBI Director.

The Lokpal Bill provides for an appointment committee consisting of the Prime Minister, Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha and Chief Justice of India or a Supreme Court judge to decide the new Director, CBI.

Appointment of SPs and above in CBI will be done by a committee consiting of CVC, Vigilance Commissioners, Home Secretary and Secretary, DoPT.

According to the proposals in the Bill, the Lokpal cannot initiate any inquiry suo motu and a complaint will be required.

The Inquiry Wing will be headed by a Director for preliminary inquiry. The Lokpal can also ask the CBI to conduct the preliminary inquiry, which should be completed within 180 days.

Ideally, the preliminary inquiry should be completed within 90 days and extension if necessary should be sought in writing.

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