Two days before Parliament meets for a three-day extended winter session to discuss the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Bill 2011, Team Anna wrote an open letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and all MPs on Sunday, urging them to make the “best possible” anti-graft law and give the Lokpal independent investigative powers.
Anna Hazare is preparing to go on a three-day fast in Mumbai to demand a strong Lokpal Bill. The Bill, tabled in the Lok Sabha on December 22, proposes to create an anti-graft ombudsman with constitutional status. It also wants to refer complaints of corruption against all government employees, including the Prime Minister, to the Lokpal, though with some exceptions.
In the open letter, Mr. Hazare and his team at India Against Corruption said their yearlong anti-corruption campaign had brought people close to a piece of legislation capable of tackling the menace effectively.
“Sensing the national mood, Parliament has also taken upon itself the task of fostering a significant debate on the issues within the Bill, and for this we thank our elected representatives. While we are on record with our displeasure at the current draft of the Bill, we are also keen that the best possible law now emerge from the debate in the people's Houses,” the letter said.
“We urge Parliament's consideration and adoption of these points to give the country a real anti-corruption law. Our opposition to various other provisions of the draft Bill remains, and we will take up the fight for improvements to the legislation in the months and years ahead,” it said.
The letter urged the MPs to ensure that the Lokpal and the Lokayuktas are able to initiate investigations suo motu, without a complaint or reference from anyone. It should also not be required to alert the accused through preliminary enquiry or hearing before filing of a first information report as recommended by the Parliamentary Standing Committee, which vetted the Bill.
Team Anna suggested three formulae for the MPs to consider:
The first was that the anti-corruption branch of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) should be merged with the Lokpal, and the anti-corruption bureaus and the Vigilance Departments of the State governments with the Lokayuktas. The second was that the Lokpal and the Lokayuktas should have their own investigative wings with exclusive jurisdiction over cases filed under the Prevention of Corruption Act. “The government's previous draft of the Bill included the second provision,” the letter pointed out.
The third was that the Lokpal should have administrative and financial control over the CBI, and the appointment of the CBI Director should be independent of any political control.
Team Anna also demanded that the jurisdiction of the Lokpal and the Lokayukta should cover Class C and D officers directly. The government's Bill has mentioned that the Lokpal would direct complaints against the lower bureaucracy to the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC).
India Against Corruption said the Lokpal should be chosen through consensus of the selection committee. And the committee should comprise the Prime Minister; the Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha; two judges to be nominated by the Collegium of the Supreme Court judges; the Comptroller and Auditor-General; the Central Vigilance Commissioner; and the Chief Election Commissioner. “The search committee to suggest nominees should consist of the former Chief Justices; the former Comptroller and Auditor-General; the former Central Vigilance Commissioner; and the former Chief Election Commissioner,” the letter said. Without such provisions, “the Lokpal Bill would be just another law — one among the many that have proven ineffective so far.”