Sibal: no institution must be above judiciary, legislature and executive
Even as the Bharatiya Janata Party argued in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday that the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Bill is “full of contradictions and deficiencies''and urged the government to withdraw it, the government described it as a landmark legislation which, if passed, would be recorded in golden letters.
Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal said the framers of the Constitution had defined the roles of the judiciary, the legislature and the executive. “There was no provision to bring all these under one institution such as the Lokpal. The government does not want any institution that is above all these, and thereby destroy the Constitution and the democratic set-up.''
Moving for consideration the three anti-graft Bills simultaneously — the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Bill, 2011; the Constitution (116 Amendment) Bill, 2011); and the Public Interest Disclosure and the Protection to Persons making the Disclosures Bill, 2010 — Minister of State in the Prime Minister's Office V. Narayanasamy asserted the supremacy of Parliament, saying: “we need to bow our heads only to this House and not before anyone else.''
Initiating the debate, Leader of the Opposition Sushma Swaraj said the Bill was full of deficiencies. “Accept our amendments or withdraw the Bill. Send it back to the standing committee for further discussion.”
“I warn you that you should not sow the seeds of a second Partition by going in for religion-based reservation,” she told the Prime Minister, adding that Dr. Singh himself had suffered the trauma and pain of the tragedy.
Ms. Swaraj raised objections to the creation of the Lokayukta through the Lokpal Bill and the process of appointment and removal of the ombudsman. She demanded the inclusion of the CBI under its ambit, saying she had moved amendments on these counts. She dismissed as a “farce” the way the Bill had included the Prime Minister in its purview. “You have included the Prime Minister with a lot of protection so that no one will be able to touch him.”
Mr. Sibal hit out at the BJP, saying it had a “political motive” to delay the Bill. It was hoping that Mr. Hazare's campaign would benefit the party in the coming polls. “If you oppose this Bill, you will be violating the sense of the House and people will never forgive you,” he said.
Ms. Swaraj said that while Mr. Sibal and Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee maintained that the law would make Lokayuktas in the States optional, Mr. Narayanasamy had said it was mandatory. The government was speaking in “different voices.”
She insisted that if the Lokayukta was being formed under Article 253, it would amount to an attack on the federal structure. “We wanted this Bill in the winter session, but not such a Bill, which will even destroy the existing system.”
Responding to the charges, Mr. Sibal said whether the Lokayukta provision should be brought in under Article 252 or 253 should be decided by courts. He said corruption was more prevalent in the States and cited Karnataka as an example.
The Bill was drafted to deal with corruption and it in no way violated the federal structure. It was only an enabling provision for the States to adopt. “This argument of no reservation for minorities in the Lokpal is unconstitutional,” he said.
While appreciating Ms. Swaraj's speech, Mr. Sibal said: “it is dangerous when a parliamentarian becomes an advocate.''
Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Prasad also demanded the withdrawal of the Bill. He said some provisions infringed upon the country's federal system. The government, the Opposition and Team Anna were unlikely to arrive at a consensus on the Bill and there was no point in debating it for three days.
As Mr. Narayansamy was speaking, Mr. Prasad rose claiming that the Lokpal Bill was an attack on the federal structure of the Constitution and that it was brought in haste under pressure from Mr. Hazare. He was critical of the BJP too for objecting to reservation for minorities.