Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Govt clears Lokpal Bill; CBI out, PM in but with safeguards

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The Union cabinet on Tuesday night approved the Lokpal Bill.
Immediately after its approval of the new draft of the Lokpal Bill, MoS in PMO V Narayanasamy rushed to the waiting officers of the Department of Personnel and Training to get the new Bill printed overnight as the government wants to circulate it to the MPs by Wednesday afternoon and then table it in the Lok Sabha on Thursday.

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 on Tuesday.

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.

CBI out of Lokpal purview: Sources

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 per cent 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.

PM under Lokpal but with safeguards

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.

Lokpal cannot initiate any inquiry suo motu

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 consisting 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.

Lokpal will have powers of search and seizure of any documents

In the cases referred to the CBI, the investigating agency will submit report to Lokpal. At least three members of the Lokpal Bench will go through the report to decide whether to file a chargesheet or a closure report or to recommend a departmental inquiry.

If a chargesheet is filed, the prosecution wing of Lokpal will initiate proceedings in a special court.

No sanction or approval of any authority will be required under directions of Lokpal.

Lokpal will have the power of superintendence over CBI in case of preliminary inquiry or investigation in matters referred by Lokpal. CVC will be required to send periodical reports to Lokpal on action taken on complaints referred by Lokpal.

Lokpal will have powers of search and seizure of any documents. Any investigating agency can be authorised by Lokpal for it.

Lokpal will have powers to utilise services of any officer or any govt agency

Lokpal will have powers to utilise services of any officer or any agency of the government of India or a state.

The Lokpal or any officer authorised will have powers to order attachment of property if convinced that they are proceeds of corruption. The attachment cannot be for more than 90 days without confirmation of court.

But within 30 days of attachment, prosecution wing will move application in a special court seeking confirmation of the attachment till investigations are over.

The changes in the original Lokpal Bill were cleared by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Tuesday morning after a group of ministers worked on them on Monday and officials gave finishing touches. 

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