The Joint Drafting Committee, comprising five Union Ministers and as many representatives of civil society to frame an effective anti-graft law, will hold its second meeting on Monday to discuss the latest version of the Jan Lokpal Bill prepared by social activist Anna Hazare’s team.
Ahead of the meeting, chairman of the committee and Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee will hold a strategy session with government representatives to firm up Centre’s stand on the latest draft of the Bill which, among other things, envisages a provision empowering the office of the Lokpal to intercept telephone conversations.
Top officials of the Law Ministry, who have gone through the Jan Lokpal Bill, will make a presentation on the salient features of the Jan Lokpal Bill before the Union Ministers.
The second meeting comes against the backdrop of differences on the inclusion of judiciary in the anti-graft legislation.
At a round-table organised recently, two former Chief Justices of India — J.S. Verma and M.N. Venkatachalaiah — had opposed inclusion of judges of the Supreme Court and High Courts in the proposed legislation.
The latest version has a new clause, Clause 13-C, which gives wide powers to “an appropriate bench of the Lokpal” to “approve interception and monitoring of messages or data or voice transmitted through telephones, internet or any other medium as covered under the India Telegraph Act, read with Information and Technology Act 2000.”
At present, the powers to intercept telephonic communications is vested with the Home Ministry.
Another new provision in this draft is for setting up of a separate “prosecution wing” for the office of Lokpal, which is already envisaged to have powers to investigate. The draft was circulated to government representatives during the Committee’s fist meeting on April 16.