BJP today said it found considerable merit in three contentious issues raised by Team Anna, including covering the entire bureaucracy and Citizens’ Charter for public grievances under Lokpal and favoured Lokayuktas in the states.
However, it said inclusion of Prime Minister under Lokpal should be with the exception of certain areas like national security.
These views were forcefully expressed by Arun Jaitley, Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha during debate on the Lokpal issue in the House.
Besides, the party was against phone-tapping powers to be given to any institution, except in matters of national security. Mr. Jaitley said it was conveyed to Team Anna when they met the party leaders.
Mr. Jaitley found “greater merit” in having a Citizens’ Charter for redress of grievances of the common man. He said several state governments have already started work in this area.
On the demand of the Anna Hazare-led civil society for having the entire bureaucracy under the Lokpal, he said, “All public servants must be made accountable...When we are including the Prime Minister (in the Lokpal)”.
Responding to a specific enquiry by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee whether there can be a central law for Lokayuktas in the states, Mr. Jaitley, an eminent lawyer, said there can be enabling laws. While there is merit in this, Lokayuktas should not be appointed by the Centre.
Mr. Jaitley said, “We have heard some not-so-complimentary statements against MPs” and urged members to show maturity without getting provoked.
Asserting that the country needs a strong Lokpal, Mr. Jaitley said, “The current political impasse must end. The time has now come to raise the bar of accountability in Indian democracy.”
“We have to find a solution which is consistent with our Constitution,” he said, urging members to rise to the occasion.
Mr. Jaitley said civil society has a role. “We have options to agree or disagree. Nobody can dispute that Parliament is supreme in making laws,” he said.
He cautioned that the Government must not get provoked by civil society in drafting any legislation, and said, “Our actions and responses should decide for our maturity.”
Mr. Jaitley said the Government’s draft of Lokpal must be seriously reconsidered which says that the Prime Minister will be accountable under Lokpal only after he ceases to be in office.
“I do not think the world’s largest democracy can afford to experiment with this,” he said, while supporting the demand to bring the Prime Minister within the purview of Lokpal keeping certain functions relating to intelligence, national security and foreign policy out of it.
On the issue of inclusion of higher judiciary under Lokpal, he said there was need for a National Judicial Commission, because judges should not appoint judges. He also found problem with the Judicial Accountability Bill.
While executive must not interfere with judiciary, the issue of judges’ appointment cannot be left to them, he said.
On the conduct of MPs within the purview of Lokpal, the BJP leader said any Lokpal Bill should necessarily be compatible with Constitutional authority.
He said it has been proved that Parliament is competent enough to take strong action against misconduct of MPs inside the House and cited examples of how 11 MPs were removed for taking Rs. 5,000 only.
Mr. Jaitley, however, said the conduct of MPs outside the House should be included under Lokpal.
Regarding the delegation of quasi-judicial powers to the Lokpal, Mr. Jaitley said a serious examination of this is required. It is a matter of legislative drafting and can be worked out, he said.
He pointed out that punishment for complainant was harsh in case it was proved false, but it was less for the corrupt.
It must be oversight and looked into, he said.
Mr. Jaitley said there is need for having a genuine redressal mechanism as it will improve the quality of governance. “It is a step towards good governance. We must come up with procedures which are fair and effective,” he said.
He said an average man confronts corruption as a way of life and thus it was necessary to have a law as people were no longer willing to accept status quo on corruption in the country.
He reminded that the Lokpal Bill had actually been once passed by the Lok Sabha in 1969, but the law could not be enacted as the Rajya Sabha could not pass it after Parliament was dissolved after split in the Indian National Congress.