Former Chief Justices had opined that it should be kept out of the ambit of the bill
While discussing the question of including the higher judiciary under the proposed anti-corruption Lokpal Bill, government representatives on the joint draft committee on Saturday pointed out that two former Chief Justices, M.N. Venkatachaliah and J.S. Verma, had opined in a public consultation that the higher judiciary should be kept out of the ambit of the bill.
Members of the civil society cited instances where applications to look into charges of corruption against High Court judges had been denied by Chief Justices. With no agreement on the issue, it was earmarked for discussion at a later stage. The matter of inclusion of the Prime Minister under the ambit of the bill was also put off.
“On general principles enunciated and placed before the committee, we identified areas of agreement and those that required further discussions, not necessarily disagreement. The question of including the office of the Prime Minister and the higher judiciary will be discussed later,” Union Human Resources Development Minister and committee member Kapil Sibal told journalists after the meeting.
“We had good discussions and decided that areas of agreement should be looked into first. Areas which have impact on existing laws and constitutional provisions, where there are legal or constitutional hurdles that need to be thought about and discussed further, will be taken up later,” he said, adding that “this is a bill with tremendous implications for the Centre and the States.”
Mr. Sibal said it was agreed that there will be a body independent of the government, an autonomous body with financial independence. The process of appointment of the Lokpal will be transparent involving “men of unquestionable integrity.”
On the issue of a uniform system of Lokayuktas in the States, he said the Centre would have to consult the States.
Civil society members Prashant Bhushan and Arvind Kejriwal told journalists that it was agreed that the chairperson and members under the bill shall not be eligible for appointment to any position in any organisation that is directly or indirectly funded by the government, nor will they be eligible to contest elections. After retirement, they will not accept government-financed positions.
The process of selection of the chairperson of the Lokpal/Lokayukta will be done by a board-based selection committee that includes representatives from the judiciary and bureaucracy. They may be assisted by a search committee.
Mr. Kejriwal said the model on which the financial independence of the independent body would be based was yet to be decided.
“Various models were discussed, including from other countries and of institutions like the Supreme Court, the Comptroller and Auditor-General, and the Central Vigilance Commission,” Mr. Kejriwal added.
Next meeting on May 23
This was the third meeting of the panel, which proposes to draft a bill by June 30. The next meeting is slated for May 23.