Constitutional Lokpal gets Cabinet clearance
After two days of intense drafting by a group of ministers and officials, the new draft of the Lokpal Bill along with the Constitution (Amendment) Bill was cleared at a special Cabinet meeting that lasted 70 minutes. The bill will be introduced in Lok Sabha on Thursday and the existing one, introduced in August, would be withdrawn. The Lokpal will be a nine-member body, whose Chairman will be selected by a four-member panel consisting of Prime Minister, Lok Sabha Speaker, Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha and Chief Justice of India or his nominee from among the Supreme Court judges, sources told PTI.
The bill provides for the Prime Minister to be brought under the purview of the Lokpal with certain safeguards that keep out aspects like international relations, public order, atomic energy, space, internal and external security from 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. Though the Lokpal will have no control over CBI, a demand strongly pursued by Hazare, an important provision has been added under which the CBI Director will be selected by a committee of the Prime Minister, Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha and Chief Justice of India or a Supreme Court judge, they said. .
Another major demand of the Team Anna which has not be accepted relates to inclusion of Group `C` employees under the Lokpal. They will be out of direct ambit of Lokpal but under the supervision of CVC, which will have to report to the Lokpal. The Lokpal will have superintendence over the cases referred to CBI by the anti-graft ombudsman. 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.
Appointment of SPs and above in CBI will be done by a committee consisting of CVC, Vigilance Commissioners, Home Secretary and Secretary, DoPT. 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. 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. 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. It will have a five-year term and its chairman or a member can be impeached only after at least 100 MPs make a representation.