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PM rules out inclusion of higher judiciary in Lokpal

New Delhi: Asserting that he has no hesitation in subjecting himself to the jurisdiction of Lokpal, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today ruled out inclusion of higher judiciary within the ambit of the anti-corruption ombudsman.

Bringing higher judiciary under the jurisdiction of the Lokpal would be contrary to the Constitutional scheme of things, he said while voicing confidence that a national consensus would be evolved on the proposeed Lokpal Bill.

He told a group of editors here that his Cabinet colleagues were of the view that bringing the institution of Prime Minister under Lokpal would create an element of instability which, at times, can go out of hand.

"I, for one, have no hesitation in bringing myself under the purview of the Lokpal," he said.

Affirming that he was not saying "anything one way or the other", he said that the office of the Prime Minister was covered by anti-corruption Act in any case. Any person holding this office was a "24-hour servant of the people" who can be removed by Parliament through a vote of no confidence.

There were divergent opinions on the subject in the country, he said, adding that he would like to be "guided" by political parties.

Singh pointed out that Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalitha and Punjab Chief Minister Prakash Singh Badal, who had both favoured keeping the office of Prime Minister out of Lokpal`s purview, had already given their views.

On higher judiciary, the Prime Minister said "there are clear reservations" in bringing it under Lokpal. Judiciary must be encouraged to find its ways and means to regulate its own affairs consistent with the spirit of the Constitution, he said.

"How would the Supreme Court pronounce on complex issues if it is subject to the jurisdiction of the Lokpal," Singh asked.

Acknowledging that corruption was a big issue which had caught the imagination of the people, he said the Lokpal was an essential and desirable legislation although it is not a panacea.

"We will honestly work to evolve a broad-based national consensus so that we have a statute which will give us a strong Lokpal," Singh told the editors.

On the civil society members` demand for creating a structure of Lokpal that would cover all the civil servants in both the Centre and states, he said "I have doubt whether our system will be able to stand that strain. Let us concentrate on corruption in high places which is most obnoxious."

Stating that he had respect for members of the civil society, Singh said that was the reason why he had taken the trouble of interacting with them.

He had met Anna Hazare in March and assured him that the government was committed to bringing a Lokpal Bill in the monsoon session of Parliament which then had to decide whether to pass it or amend it.

However, within two or three days Singh said he had found that "there were other forces" controlling Hazare.

Similarly, his government had interacted with yoga guru Ramdev as part of an honest attempt to be receptive to ideas. The effort was not to create an unnecessary misunderstanding with him.

Explaining the controversial act of Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and three other ministers meeting Ramdev at Delhi airport, the Prime Minister said that the idea was not to "receive" him. The meeting had been fixed so that it was held before he entered Delhi.

But when Ramdev sees large crowds "that has an effect on him", Singh said.

Responding to a question about police action against Ramdev and his followers at Delhi`s Ramlila ground in the middle of the night, Singh said it was unfortunate but he did not see any alternative.

If action had been taken the next day there would have been larger crowds, he said.

Asked if Hazare was naive or politically motivated, the Prime Minister said it was not good to question the motives of those government is negotiating with.

He said while the government should reach out to the civil society, no group can insist that their views "A to Z" will be the last word on what the people of India need. "They should also obey rules of the game," he said.

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