Sanction by higher authority for probe to be waived

The Lokpal Bill joint drafting committee on Saturday moved towards formulation of a draft with civil society members and government representatives agreeing to set up an independent authority that will be endowed with financial and administrative autonomy.

Although the sticky issue of including the Prime Minister and the higher judiciary within the ambit of the Bill was set aside for “further discussion,'' the panel, significantly, agreed to do away with the hitherto provisions under the law for sanction by a higher authority to investigate and prosecute politicians and senior bureaucrats on corruption charges.

At present, to investigate and prosecute a Chief Minister, the Governor's sanction is required. This power will now be vested with the Lokpal (comprising six to 10 members headed by a chairperson) that would require no sanction from any authority under the Lokpal Bill.

Human Resource Development Minister and panel member Kapil Sibal described the meeting as “exceptionally constructive.'' “The drafting of the Bill will now begin in areas on which there is agreement,'' he said.

The meeting was chaired by Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee.

A point that emerged was whether the appointment of Lokayuktas could constitutionally be provided for in the proposed Bill so that there was uniformity in the anti-corruption law.

“For this, we will have to consult State Governments,'' Mr. Sibal said.

Civil society members Arvind Kejriwal and Prashant Bhushan said it was agreed that the process of selecting the Lokpal would be “broad-based, transparent and participatory.'' A search committee would be put in place.

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