Parl panel on Lokpal overturns 2 key decisions

New Delhi: Overturning its two key decisions within a day, the Parliamentary panel examining the Lokpal Bill on Thursday favoured exclusion of group C officials from Lokpal and not to tamper with the present selection process of CBI Director despite opposition by at least 10 members.

A day after the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Personnel and Law and Justice had finalised its report on the Lokpal Bill, its Chairman Abhishek Singhvi called an emergency meeting this evening to discuss the two issues afresh.

In the meeting, several members, mostly from Congress, said group C officials should not be brought under Lokpal as it would bring "too much pressure" on a new institution.

They also said the appointment of CBI Director was not under the jurisdiction of the Committee as the Lokpal Bill was aimed at creating the institution of the ombudsman.

At least ten members, mainly from BJP, SP, CPI-M and RSP opposed the "sudden U turn" saying a decision taken by the Committee cannot be amended. "If they have reservations, they should give a dissent note," BJP member Kirti Azad said.

However, ignoring their contention, Singhvi is learnt to have agreed with the exclusion of group C employees and not tinkering with the selection process of the CBI chief.

Congress sources said "the sense of the meeting" overwhelmingly was to exclude group C and not to change the appointment procedure for CBI Director.

On Wednesday, the Committee had favoured including group C employees under Lokpal`s purview and have a new selection committee comprising the Prime Minister, Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha and Lokpal Chairman.

In the 30-member Committee, there are nine members from Congress, one each from Trinamool Congress, RJD and LJP. BJP has seven members while CPI-M, AIADMK and SP have one member each. BJD and BSP also have one member each in the Committee which also has two Independents and as many nominated members.

RSP and SDF also have one member each. The trigger of Thursday`s meeting was the letters written by Shantaram Naik (Cong) and Bhalchandra Mungerkar (Nominated, who later joind Congress).

The two had flagged the two issues and asked Singhvi to call as meeting to discuss the same. Six of the seven BJP members today submitted their dissent notes to Committee Chairman Abhishek Singhvi and said its Rajya Sabha member Ram Jethmalani will do the same today.

BJP`s dissent note is on non-inclusion of the Prime Minister under the ambit of Lokpal, exclusion of the lower bureaucracy and not having the public grievances mechanism as part of the Lokpal institution.

RSP member Prasanta Kumar Majumdar also registered his dissent on non-inclusion of the Prime Minister within the purview of Lokpal.

SP member Shailendra Kumar said he would submit his dissent note on non-inclusion of group C employees under the ambit of Lokpal and not having the mechanism of public grievance under the Lokpal system.

Some Congress members later explained that their change of stand claiming that after the implementation of the Sixth Pay Commission, there is virtually no difference between group C and D employees.

"As it is, the patwaris, tehsildars and SHOs who actually are known to take bribe are state government employees and are covered under Lokayukta, Prevention of Corruption Act and other penal provisions," a Congress member said.

The Congress members said group C and D officials of the central government are covered by the CVC, hence overloading the new institution of Lokpal would not be advisable. "If the experiment of group A and B is good, then more categories can be included later," the member said.