To get Lokpal passed, Centre drops lokayukta clause

To ensure smooth passage for the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Bill, 2011, in the forthcoming budget session of Parliament, the government is set to drop the contentious 'Part III' relating to setting up of lokayuktas in states.

The Centre has accepted the recommendation of the Rajya Sabha select committee to replace Part III of the Bill with a new Section 63, providing for setting up of lokayuktas in states through enactment of law one year from the date of commencement of the central legislation.

However, the Ministry of Personnel has decided against accepting the committee's recommendation to drop the clause that provided for bringing bodies and institutions, including NGOs, receiving donations from the public under the purview of the proposed Lokpal.

In an important move, the ministry has also decided to do away with the requirement under Section 6A of the Delhi (Special Police) Establishment Act that a competent authority sanction initiation of an inquiry or investigation against any public servant above the rank of joint secretary. As per the new proposal, in Lokpal-referred cases, such a sanction would not be required.

The ministry's Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) has decided on 11 official amendments that it intends to introduce to the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Bill, 2011, which is struck in the Rajya Sabha after being cleared by the Lok Sabha on December 27, 2011. The Cabinet is scheduled to take a call on the amendments at its meeting on January 31. The amendments have already been cleared by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who is also the minister in-charge of the Ministry of Personnel.

Among other important recommendations of the select committee that the ministry has accepted are setting up of a separate Directorate of Prosecution for the CBI under the overall control of the CBI director, the appointment of the director of prosecution to be made on the recommendation of the Central Vigilance Commission, and having a panel of lawyers appointed with the consent of the Lokpal to handle Lokpal-referred cases.

The ministry has also accepted the recommendation of the select committee on the fifth member of the Lokpal Selection committee, who would have to be an eminent jurist, nominated by the President on the recommendation of the first four members of the selection committee — the prime minister, Lok Sabha speaker, leader of opposition in the Lower House, and the chief justice of India.

In order to try and get the Bill passed in the Budget Session, the DoPT has also done away with inter-ministerial consultations, taking the plea that it has held wide-ranging consultations with the Law Ministry and incorporated most of the recommendations of the Rajya Sabha panel.

Among other clauses, the select committee had recommended de-linking the creation of Lokayuktas in states from the Lokpal Bill. This contentious clause was one of the main reasons many political parties, including some UPA allies, opposed the Bill, terming it an attack on the federal structure.

The Cabinet note moved by the Ministry of Personnel says that the ministry has decided to accept all recommendations of the Select Committee vis-a-vis the functioning of the CBI, except one seeking that transfer of officers investigating cases referred to the CBI by the Lokpal only be done with the prior approval of the Lokpal.

Also, while the select committee had recommended that the clause that provides that a public servant be given a hearing by the Lokpal before an investigation is ordered against him be dispensed with, the ministry has taken a contrary view, saying this would result in "harassment of the public servant".

The ministry has also accepted the recommendation of the select committee with regard to giving the power to sanction prosecution of a public servant to the Lokpal.

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