Centre trying to dilute Lokpal Bill: Jaitley

Special Correspondent
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Says rejection of the Select Committee’s two key recommendations will weaken it

Arun Jaitley
Arun Jaitley

Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley has charged the government with attempting, yet again, to dilute the Lokpal Bill now pending in the Rajya Sabha.

In a statement a day after the Cabinet approved some amendments to the Bill, which would be moved when it comes up for consideration and passage, Mr. Jaitley claimed that rejection of two of the key recommendations made by the Select Committee on the Bill would further weaken it.

The recommendations in question are investigation of a complaint against a public servant without giving an opportunity to the officer to be heard and requirement of prior permission of the Lokpal if an investigative officer of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), on a case referred by the Lokpal, is to be transferred.

Mr. Jaitley contended that the Select Committee consciously deleted the provisions with regard to the Lokpal granting an opportunity of hearing to a public servant, while deciding whether to embark upon an enquiry or not.

“Such an enquiry, though ostensibly appears to be in compliance with the principles of natural justice, would be destructive of any effective probe against a delinquent public servant. Let us assume a complaint is received against someone that he is demanding illegal gratification. A search and raid would be necessary. No prior notice should ever be given. Alternatively, if a complaint of disproportionate assets is received against a public servant, any prior notice to him by the Lokpal would enable him to remove the entire evidence. Suddenness and surprise are the essence of an investigation. A public servant is interrogated and investigated in a criminal probe. He cannot be given material collected against him during the investigation or prior to investigation,” he argued.

On the second recommendation of the Select Committee on powers of the government to transfer a CBI officer, Mr. Jaitley contended that removing an officer and replacing him-or-her with a pliable officer cannot be done at the government’s discretion.

“If during the investigation an officer is sought to be moved out, ostensibly on the ground of administrative exigencies, prior approval of the Lokpal should be necessary. There is no plausible reason why the government has chosen to reject this recommendation, which would have strengthened the institution of Lokpal,” he said.



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