Lokpal to be Constitutional body: Salman

New Delhi: The proposed Lokpal will have the status of a Constitutional authority for which purpose the Constitution will be amended, Union Law Minister Salman Khurshid disclosed tonight. "We are working on a very strong Lokpal Bill. A Lokpal Bill that will come with a Constitutional amendment. That amendment will give the Lokpal the status of a Constitutional authority," he told PTI in an interview.The Lokpal will be "more powerful than the Election Commission" and "will have far greater powers". Its profile and stature will be "much higher", Khurshid said.

A Lokpal, with the status of a Constitutional authority, had been proposed by Congress General Secretary Rahul Gandhi during his intervention on a debate on the subject in Lok Sabha last month. Khurshid acknowledged that the move was in line with Gandhi`s suggestion. "He is very committed to that and he believes that it is a very important step we must take because Lokpal is no ordinary institution," he said.

The Law Minister said the proposal had not yet been formally considered by the Union Cabinet but the sense in the government and the party was for a Lokpal that will have Constitutional status. There will be a separate bill to provide Constitutional status to Lokpal, Khurshid said. The move to make Lokpal a Constitutional body is not intended to delay the passage of the legislation, he said, adding that the commitment to pass the bill in the Winter Session of Parliament starting next month stood. Asked about the composition of the Lokpal, the Law Minister said the proposal was to have 11-member body, at least fifty per cent of whom will have judicial background, such as former judges of Supreme Court and High Courts.

The non-judicial members will be from civil society, including those who have worked on corruption and good governance such as those who have held high positions in investigative agencies. Khurshid confirmed that the proposal was with the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Law and Justice, Grievances and Department of Personnel. Asked if the Opposition parties had been sounded, he said various members of the Cabinet are keeping in touch with some specific leaders of Opposition.