We agreed to exclude judiciary from Lokpal on assurance that it would be addressed in Bill: Team Anna

Accusing parliamentarians of lacking in the “political will” to make the judiciary accountable to the people, Team Anna demanded that the Judicial Standards and Accountability (JSA) Bill be withdrawn and replaced with a law to create an institution akin to the Lokpal to investigate charges of corruption against judges.

At a news conference here, Team Anna member Shanti Bhushan charged the government with “misleading” the people with the argument that it would not be prudent to bring the judiciary under the proposed Lokpal body on the plea that the JSA Bill would cover it. “It is a fraud on the nation.”

The Bill, introduced in the Lok Sabha in December 2010, was examined by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice. It submitted its report on August 30.

Another Team Anna member, Arvind Kejiriwal, termed the Standing Committee report a sham, and said the Opposition members on the panel should explain why they failed to address serious deficiencies in the Bill.

Asked what Team Anna intended doing if the government did not scrap the Bill, Mr. Shanti Bhushan said it, along with all those in favour of a strong institutional mechanism to deal with corruption in the echelons of the judiciary, would launch a campaign among the electorate to vote out all parliamentarians opposed to an independent body to make judges accountable.

Team Anna's contention is that it had deferred its demand for the inclusion of the judiciary within the ambit of the Lokpal, only on the Centre's assurance that the issue would be addressed satisfactorily in the JSA Bill.

Asked about accountability on the part of lawyers, another member, Prashant Bhushan, said the Bar Council was competent enough to deal with corruption charges against them. “Lawyers are not engaged in public service. We do believe that there is need for an independent institution to look into allegations of corruption against lawyers, doctors, journalists and all other professional groups”.

According to the Team, in suggesting the inclusion of two MPs and the Attorney-General on the National Judicial Oversight Committee, both the Bill and the Standing Committee report seriously undermined the basic constitutional principle of judicial independence from the executive and the legislature.

Mr. Prashant Bhushan accused the standing committee of proposing changes that would seriously undermine judicial independence.

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