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Saturday, September 3, 2011

Lokpal Bill

Central to any compromise will be the contours of the Bill that Parliament will debate and approve. Sources say the government may make major changes to its draft Lokpal Bill to include provisions from Team Anna's Jan Lokpal Bill. The key differences between the two are:

To include the Prime Minister under the Lokpal or not:

This is perhaps the most emotive issue amongst Anna's supporters. Primarily because it's simple, it's symbolic and easy to comprehend. The Opposition BJP and the Left want the PM included too with some exclusion clauses to ensure national security is not compromised.
The government will discuss this at an all-party meeting today - it is inclined to give in to the demand; negotiations will be focused on the "exclusion clauses."

Lower bureaucracy to be investigated by the Lokpal:

The government wants only major corruption to fall under the Lokpal - so it says only Class 1 government servants should be included, not junior officers. The argument is that if every one of the 30 lakh central government servants is included, the Lokpal will need 20,000 investigators. Team Anna has argued that the common man faces day-to-day corruption from the lower-level government officials, so these must be included. The Left parties say only Class 1 and above should be included.
This remains one of the major sticking points. The Government says let us come up with another arrangement.

To include the Judiciary:

If there is one thing that the government, the BJP and the Left parties agree on, it is that the judiciary should not be under the Lok Pal. The argument is that the Lokpal will send corruption cases to courts for trial and sentencing. If judges are under the scrutiny of the Lokpal, how will they be independent enough to go against it in these cases? Moreover, this goes against a key tenet of the Constitution: The independence of the judiciary. Anna's team argues that there is rampant corruption in the judiciary and it must be policed by the Lokpal.
Team Anna may compromise on this. It has indicated that a good judicial accountability Bill, separate from the Lokpal but brought around the same time, could be acceptable.

Should MPs' actions inside Parliament be included under the Lokpal:

According to the Constitution any corrupt behaviour by MPs inside the House is currently exempt from scrutiny. Even the Supreme Court has held that MPs' actions inside Parliament cannot be questioned. Anna and his team say the Constitution should be amended to include MPs' corruption inside the House.
Most parties are against this. A compromise could be some form of accountability, but a change in the Constitution seems unlikely.

Overseeing corruption in the Lokpal:

Who will ensure that up to 20,000 officers in the Lokpal are not corrupt? Anna's draft has some oversight provisions - most parties feel the provision in the Anna draft is very weak. In a compromise, Team Anna may climb down on this and agree to a separate body to oversee the functioning of the Lokpal and for grievance redressal.

Method of appointing of the Lokpal:

The Anna draft has suggested complicated methods of appointing the Lokpal, which have been widely criticized as impractical. In a compromise, Team Anna is expected to agree to simplify this. So long as the appointment is not made by the Executive.

Common Bill for All:

Team Anna wants one common Lokpal Bill for both the Centre and the states. The government wants states to come up with their own Bills.
This remains a sticking point.

Including CBI and CVC:

Both sides agree that Parliament should decide whether or not India's foremost investigation agency, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the Central Vigilance Commission should be under the purview of the Lokpal.


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