"Lokpal Bill will be taken up in monsoon session"

Mukherjee writes to Chief Ministers seeking their suggestions

Updated - November 17, 2021 02:55 am IST

Published - May 31, 2011 07:24 pm IST - New Delhi

New Delhi: Union Home Minister P Chidambaram and HRD Minister Kapil Sibal arrive for a press conference on Lokpal Bill in New Delhi on Tuesday. PTI Photo by Vijay Kumar Joshi (PTI5_31_2011_000167A)

New Delhi: Union Home Minister P Chidambaram and HRD Minister Kapil Sibal arrive for a press conference on Lokpal Bill in New Delhi on Tuesday. PTI Photo by Vijay Kumar Joshi (PTI5_31_2011_000167A)

Even as Joint Drafting Committee chairman and Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee initiated wider consultations, the UPA government on Tuesday reiterated its resolve to present an effective Lokpal Bill during the monsoon session of Parliament.

Union Ministers P. Chidambaram and Kapil Sibal, both government members on the JDC, said none should suspect the intentions of the government and emphasised that irrespective of what others (some civil society members on the committee) said or did the panel would move on and culminate with the formulation of a strong Lokpal Bill.

Responding to questions on the warning issued by two civil society members of quitting the JDC if the contentious issues were not resolved, the Ministers made it clear that they did not intend to join issue with them and underlined their respect for them.

They, however, expressed the hope that none would conduct themselves in a fashion that obstructed the functioning of the panel.

Countering the allegations of non-government representatives that government representatives were not reasonable, the two Ministers described Monday's deliberations as constructive with all the 10 members expressing various views on the contentious issues. “No final view was expressed,” Mr. Chidambaram said.

They said the JDC was proceeding on the right path of enquiry, consultation and discussion towards evolving a consensus and clinching the proposed Bill by the end of June 30.

The decision to seek the opinion of Chief Ministers and arties was unanimous as also the next dates of the meeting — June 6 and 10. At a later stage, the committee will elicit the opinion of some of the other civil society members and organisations; this decision too was unanimously taken at the meetings.

The two said the government had not taken any decision on the matter and Ministers had expressed their views at the meeting. The government would make up its mind taking the views gathered from a cross-section of society and present its position before Parliament.

Contentious issues

Mr. Mukherjee sent a letter to Chief Ministers and heads of political parties seeking their opinion on contentious issues — whether a single Act should provide for both the Lokpal at the Centre and Lokayukta in the State; should the Prime Minister, judges of the Supreme Court and High Courts, conduct of MPs inside Parliament (speaking or voting) be brought within the purview of the Lokpal; and whether the Lokpals should have the powers to enquire against and dismiss a member of the civil service of the Union or All India Service officer and what should be the definition of the Lokpal.

The questionnaire has suggested various options for better understanding as in the case of the Prime Minister — whether he should be included and, if yes, then whether he should be excluded on certain counts. Similarly, with respect to MPs, it has pointed out that Article 105(2) of the Constitution prohibits such an enquiry, and an affirmative answer should come with a suggestion for suitable amendment of the Constitution.

As in the case of civil servants, the letter has sought to know if the respondent (Chief Minister or a political party) favoured an amendment to the Constitution to bring them within the purview of the Lokpal, or, oppose the idea respecting Article 311 and Article 320(3)(c) which together stipulates none could be dismissed by an authority subordinate to that by which he was appointed and that the UPSC and the State PSC shall be consulted on all disciplinary matters regarding such officials.

Mr. Mukherjee has sought to know whether the Lokpal should be a multi-member body that will exercise all quasi judicial powers with the members sitting together or in benches as the judiciary, or a body with some quasi-judicial powers but will have the authority to delegate is quasi-judicial powers to a hierarchy of subordinate offices (like CBDT, CBEC etc.), or a multi-member body that will exercise supervisory powers over several tiers of officers who will exercise quasi-judicial powers.

Mr. Chidambaram and Mr. Sibal said the conduct of all Cabinet Ministers and MPs outside Parliament would be within the purview of the Lokpal and that they did not favour any change in the constitutional structure that guaranteed protection to MPs and civil servants in discharge of their duties.

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