Refusing to be cowed down by pressure exerted by Team Anna, the government stood its ground on maintaining the investigative independence of the Central Bureau of Investigation, as the Union Cabinet, chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, cleared the draft of the controversial Lokpal Bill late on Tuesday evening. It is now likely to be tabled in the Lok Sabha on Thursday.
The administrative control of the CBI will continue to remain with the Department of Personnel and Training: it will not be under the Lokpal, as demanded by Team Anna and the Bharatiya Janata Party. The Lokpal will not investigate complaints suo motu — it will only take cognisance of complaints made to it by members of the public.
The nine-member Lokpal committee will not have an investigative wing, only an inquiry wing, as it will refer cases for investigation to the CBI, and these investigations will be done under the Lokpal's supervision. The government has also not accepted the suggestion by parties like the BJP to split the CBI's investigation and prosecution wings.
A concession the government has made to Team Anna is that Group A,B,C and D government employees will all be under the Lokpal, with complaints against Groups C and D being referred to the Central Vigilance Commission for investigation — the Lokpal will have oversight/appellate powers.
The Prime Minister will be under the Lokpal, but with safeguards so that matters relating to external affairs, atomic energy and national security are excluded. A complaint against the Prime Minister will be accepted only if three-fourths of the Lokpal committee are party to it; the enquiry will be held in camera and the report will go to Parliament.
The Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition and the Chief Justice of India will choose the Lokpal; to ensure that the ombudsman is accountable, 100 MPs can sign a petition to initiate proceedings for the removal of the Lokpal. Five of the nine members of the Lokpal committee will be SCs/STs/OBCs, women or the minorities.
After the Cabinet convened on Tuesday evening, MoS in the Prime Minister's Office and Department of Personnel V. Narayanasamy briefed the members on the main provisions of the draft Bill, with Ministers Pranab Mukherjee, P Chidambaram and Kapil Sibal — all members of drafting committee —intervening to elaborate on key issues.
With Prime Minister clearing the Cabinet note only earlier in the day, there was no time to circulate it and the draft Bill in advance to the Ministers; Cabinet members therefore relied on the briefing and the quick look they had during the meeting. However, many members were taken aback at how tough the provisions of the draft bill are, sources said.