December 20, 2011

Cabinet clears Lokpal, PM in but CBI & lower bureaucracy out

NEW DELHI: The Union Cabinet tonight approved a historic bill for creation a Lokpal with Constitutional status that will have no control over CBI but brings within its purview the Prime Minister with a number of safeguards.

Not succumbing to Anna Hazare's demand for inclusion of CBI under Lokpal, the government also decided against hiving off of the prosecution wing of the CBI.

After two days of intense drafting by a group of ministers and officials, the new draft of Constitution (Amendment) Bill was cleared at a special Cabinet meeting that lasted 70 minutes.

The bill will be introduced in Lok Sabha on Thursday and the existing one, introduced in August, would be withdrawn.

The Lokpal will be a nine-member body, whose Chairman will be selected by a four-member panel consisting of Prime Minister, Lok Sabha Speaker, Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha and Chief Justice of India or his nominee from among the Supreme Court judges, sources told PTI.

The bill provides for the Prime Minister to be brought under the purview of the Lokpal with certain safeguards that keep out aspects like international relations, public order, atomic energy, space, internal and external security from inquiry.

Probe on any complaint against the Prime Minister will be decided by the full bench, of which at least three-fourth should agree. The probe will in-camera and if a complaint is dismissed, the records on it should not be made public.

Though the Lokpal will have no control over CBI, a demand strongly pursued by Hazare, an important provision has been added under which the CBI director will be selected by a committee of the Prime Minister, Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha and Chief Justice of India or a Supreme Court judge, they said.

Appointment of SPs and above in CBI will be done by a committee consiting of CVC, Vigilance Commissioners, Home Secretary and Secretary, DoPT.

According to the proposals in the Bill, the Lokpal cannot initiate any inquiry suo motu and a complaint will be required.

The Inquiry Wing will be headed by a Director for preliminary inquiry. The Lokpal can also ask the CBI to conduct the preliminary inquiry, which should be completed within 180 days.

Ideally, the preliminary inquiry should be completed within 90 days and extension if necessary should be sought in writing.