Government model will essentially be under the political powers of the party in power: Team Anna

The government version of the Lokpal Bill, presented at a meeting of the Joint Drafting Committee on the Bill on Tuesday, has done away with the need to seek sanction for prosecution, and as a check and balance provided for hearing the accused before filing the FIR and then again before filing the charge sheet.

The other highlights of the government draft is that the Lokpal would be a quasi-judicial body, have contempt powers, recommend suspension and transfer of officers and can take up complaints suo motu. It will have an independent investigation and prosecuting wing enjoying full police power to investigate and attach property and investigate up to A level officers. It will enjoy full financial autonomy.

The Bill has made declaration of assets by bureaucrats compulsory and allows for setting up special courts for speedy trial within a time frame.

Union Ministers Veerappa Moily, Kapil Sibal and Salman Khursheed said it was not possible to accept all the suggestions of Team Anna as 23 Chief Ministers wanted the Lokayukta to remain under their domain and not under the Lokpal, and MPs enjoyed protection of speech and voting under the Constitution.

“Our mandate was to draft a Bill to set up a Lokpal and not to suggest Constitutional amendment.”

It was not possible to have a parallel executive body outside the government answerable to nobody.

On the other hand Team Anna members Prashant Bhushan and Arvind Kejriwal said they were deeply disappointed by proposed government model, which would essentially be under the political powers of the party in power.

The powers and functions of the Lokpal would be limited to corruption of senior officers, excluding the Prime Minister, the judiciary and MPs in Parliament. Team Anna also questioned the rationale of hearing the accused before filing the FIR and the charge sheet saying that it would take away the secrecy of investigation.

The government attempt amounted to having a symbolic Lokpal rather than a comprehensive, independent anticorruption body.

Mr. Kejriwal charged that the proposed government law would not be a deterrent to corruption. No one would be scared of this Bill, he added.

In the earlier draft, the Prime Minister figured under the ambit of the Lokpal; now he had been excluded, he said and added that the version had been diluted.

One of the main benefits of the ninth and last meeting of the Joint Drafting Committee was that the country and the people were engaged in the drafting of the Bill as never before, Mr. Bhushan observed.

Mr. Kejriwal said there was little option left other than stick to the call of Mr. Hazare to resume the indefinite fast at Jantar Mantar on August 16.

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