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We accepted 34 of the 40 basic principles suggested by Team Anna, says Khursheed

INTERACTION: Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni, flanked by Law Minister Salman Khursheed and Parliamentary Affairs Minister V. Narayanasamy, briefing the media after the Cabinet meeting in New Delhi on Thursday. — Photo: V. Sudershan

INTERACTION: Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni, flanked by Law Minister Salman Khursheed and Parliamentary Affairs Minister V. Narayanasamy, briefing the media after the Cabinet meeting in New Delhi on Thursday. — Photo: V. Sudershan  

Law Minister Salman Khursheed on Thursday said that the government had accepted several points of the Jan Lokpal Bill drafted by the civil society members of the joint drafting committee.

He, however, indicated that both the drafts were not taken to the Cabinet after the manner in which the civil society members ended the meetings of the joint panel and dubbed the government's bill as a joke on the nation. “The way they called it a joke it was not possible to take both the drafts to the Cabinet. We pointed out the differences to the Cabinet and then the government draft was passed.”

“We accepted 34 of the 40 basic principles suggested by them. I am surprised that they don't recognise the work they have done themselves and criticise us. I give them credit for the lot of improvement in the Bill. A lot of good aspects are because of discussions with them.”

Opposition consulted

Asked why the civil society draft was not placed before the Cabinet, he said all the members knew what they wanted to know. Several suggestions were placed before them. Besides, the fine-tuning of the draft was done in consultation with some opposition leaders.

Speaking on the Bill, he said for the first time the Centre had provided for a time limitation period of seven years from the date of cognisance of offence. “There is no limitation period in the Prevention of Corruption Act. In this legislation, we have provided for it in this Bill for transparency and accountability. The limitation period will apply to Prime Minister after he / she demits office. No complaint will be entertained after seven years of offence.”

The Lokpal shall not require sanction or approval under Section 197 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 or Section 19 of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, in cases where prosecution is proposed. The Lokpal will also have powers to attach the property of corrupt public servants acquired through corrupt means.

The Lokpal consisting of chairperson and eight-members, half of them judicial, will have its own investigation and prosecution wings with such officers and staff as are necessary to carry out its functions. Unlike what the draft Lokpal Bill conceived, there will be no delegations of power and functions of this quasi-judicial body.

While the chairperson would be a sitting judge or retired Chief Justice of India, its members would include sitting or former judges of the Supreme Court / High Court. Persons with impeccable integrity and 25 years of experience in public life and administration who have dealt with corruption and vigilance would also form part of Lokpal

The selection panel will comprise the Prime Minister, a Minister, Lok Sabha Speaker, two judges nominated by the Chief Justice, an eminent jurist and an eminent person nominated by the government.

On Lokayukta

On the issue of setting up of Lokayukta through the Lokpal Bill, Minister of State in Prime Minister's office V. Narayanasamy said the government had written to the Chief Ministers and not all of them agreed. “We cannot encroach upon the powers of the States. It is up to them to set up Lokayuktas.”

He also pointed out that the powers of the Central Bureau of Investigation could not be given to the Lokpal. Officers can, of course, be sent to them for assistance or on deputation. “The Lokpal has to work within the purview of the Constitution.”

Asked about social activist Anna Hazare going on indefinite fast if the government failed to bring a strong Bill, Mr. Khursheed said once the Bill became the property of Parliament, nothing much could be done about it. “It is for them to decide if they want to challenge the authority of Parliament.”

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