What the parliamentary committee recommends for Lokpal

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What the parliamentary committee recommends for Lokpal
New Delhi:  A parliamentary committee today adopted its report on the contentious Lokpal Bill leaving it to the wisdom of Parliament to decide on inclusion of Prime Minister in its ambit while Congress members gave dissenting notes demanding inclusion of Group C officials within its purview.

BJP, BJD and Left members gave dissenting notes demanding inclusion of Prime Minister with some safeguards.

Three Congress members Deepa Dasmunshi, P T Thomas and Meenakshi Natarajan gave their dissent notes during today's final meeting demanding inclusion of Group C employees under Lokpal's purview and making CVC accountable to the ombudsman.

The final report keeps out Group C employees from the ambit of Lokpal. The report, without taking a position, also recommended three options on the issue of Prime Minister: his
inclusion without exception and qualifications, inclusion with no exclusionary caveats but after demitting office and inclusion of the PM with exclusions on issues like national security and foreign affairs.

In all, a total of 16 notes of dissent are believed to have been submitted to the Committee by members of BJP, BJD, SP, Congress, LJP, RJD and Left parties.

The Chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Personnel and Law and Justice Abhishek Manu Singhvi said after the meeting that the report is likely to be tabled in Parliament on December 9. Sources in the government indicated that the Lokpal Bill could be passed by Parliament in the ongoing Winter session.

"The Committee considered 25 issues with convergence on a large number of subjects and some divergence on different issues by different members," Mr Singhvi said. He said the notes of dissent will be reflected in the report when it is presented to Parliament.

After 17 sittings of the Committee, the final report has kept out judiciary and MPs' conduct in House out of Lokpal's purview.

The 30-member panel has also recommended conferring constitutional status on the Lokpal and setting up of Lokpal and Lokayuktas in states under one legislation. In its 199-page report, the Committee has decided not to tinker with the present system of appointment of CBI Director. In a new recommendation, the Committee has favoured 50 per cent reservation to members of SC/ST, OBC, minorities and women in the seven-member Search Panel for choosing a Lokpal and to make the Search Panel mandatory. This was not part of the draft report circulated to members a week ago.

It also favours inclusion of Chief Ministers under the state Lokayuktas and if the report is accepted then the Bill should be named as Lokpal/Lokayukta Bill, 2011.

It recommended that Group C and D category officials in the Centre "shall be brought specifically under the jurisdiction of the CVC". It said the CVC should be made to exercise powers identical or at least largely analogous, in respect of class C and D officials as the Lokpal will do for group A and B category officials. The panel had earlier decided to include Group C employees under Lokpal's ambit but did a U-turn the very next day following stiff opposition from Congress members in the panel.

In the final draft, the Committee has recommended that officials in the state government who are equivalent to Group C and D at the Centre should be included within the jurisdiction of state Lokayuktas "with no exclusion". The report said employees of state-owned or controlled entities should also be covered.

Vis-a-vis Team Anna's demand for scrapping Article 311 of the Constitution that gives protection to government servants against summary dismissal, the draft report favours a "close and careful relook" to ensure major obstacles in taking legitimate departmental action against delinquent officials are eliminated. The report said bureaucratic corruption has been relatively ignored in the context of excessive media and civil society focus on political corruption, coupled with the doctrine of civil service anonymity, which India imported from the colonial rule.

Referring to the media, NGOs and corporates, the draft report said if the domestic and foreign funds are above Rs 10 lakh per annum, such organisations - whether controlled by
government or not - should be covered under Lokpal. "It is thus clear that corporates, media or NGOs should and would be covered only to the above extent and not otherwise," the report said.

On the role of CBI and CVC vis-a-vis Lokpal, the report recommends a five-stage mechanism. In the first stage, a complaint must be received by the Lokpal who would hold a preliminary inquiry in stage 2. If a case is made out, it would be referred to CBI in stage 3 which will investigate independently of the Lokpal or ministries. In stage 4, the case would go to the Directorate of Prosecution which will be under the superintendence of Lokpal. In the 5th and last stage, the case would go to a special judge or a Lokpal Judge.

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