By doing so, it will keep the promise it made in the ‘sense of the House' resolution
The United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government, which had in recent days indicated that it was not keen to include the lower bureaucracy within the ambit of the Lokpal Bill, as it was billed as an instrument to deal with corruption in high places, is now veering round to the view that the Group C employees could be included in the Bill it will bring to Parliament, probably on December 19.
A day before the Parliamentary Standing Committee attached to the Union Ministry of Personnel tables its report on the Lokpal Bill in the House, government sources indicated that the Group C employees were likely to be included in the government's version of the Bill.
These sources made two points: one, that only complaints of corruption that attract penal provisions will be entertained, not grievances; and two, that one possible way to deal with the volume would be to let these complaints go first to the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC), as it does now, and then route the really serious ones among them periodically to the Lokpal for further action.
By doing so, the government will keep the promise it made in the ‘sense of the House' resolution that was moved by Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee on August 27: it has spoken of bringing the lower bureaucracy under the Lokpal “through an appropriate mechanism.”
By doing so, the government will also take into account the sentiments of the members of the Standing Committee, where all non-Congress political parties are rooting for inclusion of the Group C employees; not just that, three of the Congress MPs on the panel, too, are pressing for it. Sources in the committee said that one reason why this has happened was because members of Team Anna have been relentlessly lobbying for inclusion of the Group C employees with individual MPs on the panel.
However, the government is still not keen to include the Prime Minister, while still holding office; it wants to stick to the provision in the original government version — that the Prime Minister can be subject to investigation, but only after he demits office. Government sources said that given the current climate, it would be impossible for any government — not just a Congress-led one — to work under such conditions. In the Standing Committee, more than half the members — by one count 18 of the 30 — were either for not including the Prime Minister at all or only after he demits office.
The parties that are keenest to include the Prime Minister within the ambit of the Lokpal Bill are the Bharatiya Janata Party, the Left parties and the Biju Janata Dal.
Indeed, in the dissent note submitted by the CPI(M)'s A. Sampath, he said the Prime Minister as well as the lower bureaucracy should be brought under the purview of the Bill. He also asked for all MPs to be brought within the ambit, by amending Article 105 of the Constitution “on the lines recommended by the National Commission to review the working of the Constitution”; that the Lokpal should be provided with its own investigation mechanism with exclusive jurisdiction for the Prevention of Corruption Act; that the CBI Director should be selected by the Selection Committee constituted for selecting the chairperson and other members of the Lokpal; and that the Lokpal should be given powers to investigate cases which involve business entities and to recommend cancellation of licences, contracts, lease or agreements if it was obtained by corrupt means.