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Saturday, August 20, 2011

Is NCPRI's draft Lokpal bill a way out?

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Anindo Dey, TNN / Aug 20, 2011, 05.42AM IST.

JAIPUR: With the Anna Hazare group clearly indicating it is ready to drop its insistence on the inclusion of higher judiciary if the government delivers on a strong judicial accountability bill, something already suggested in the draft Lokpal bill framed by the National Council for People's Right Information (NCPRI), it is hoped that discussions on the issue of the Prime Minister might take the same path.

It is possible that the Hazare group and the government might agree to talk on demands relating to the inclusion of the Prime Minister under the jurisdiction of the Lokpal. The draft of NCPRI's version of the Lokpal bill, made public in July, seeks to include the Prime Minister, just like provisions in the Jan Lokpal bill, as well as all levels of bureaucracy and the judiciary in the Lokpal's ambit but with specific conditions.

The stand taken in the NCPRI's draft bill is that the Prime Minister's inclusion must ensure that no investigation would be launched involving him unless the full bench of the Central Anti-Corruption Lokpal has, based on evidence available, recommend such an investigation. On a subsequent reference made by the Anti-Corruption Lokpal to the Supreme Court of India, a full bench of the Supreme Court has examined the evidence and concurred with the National Anti-Corruption Lokpal.

This, the draft bill feels, will protect the PM from false investigations. Further, the bills suggests that after receiving a concurrence of the Supreme Court no investigation should be launched till a notice has been served to the ruling party or coalition that the Anti-Corruption Lokpal proposes to conduct an investigation after 15 days are given to them to make alternative arrangements, if they so wish. However, the draft proposes, during this period the Anti-Corruption Lokpal shall be authorised to safeguard evidence and witnesses, as it would once the investigation starts. The NCPRI version of the Lokpal bill is based on a slew of measures involving multiple institutions rather than one institution for doing everything for everyone.
It adopts a two-pronged approach to cover not just complaints under the Prevention of Corruption Act, but also to take cognisance of complaints relating to violations under Chapter IX of the IPC, prevention of money laundering, and other legal instruments that the government may notify from time to time. The bills seeks to address issues of corruption through three parallel Lokpals - the national anti-corruption Lokpal, a stronger Central Vigilance Commission or the Kendriya Satarkta Lokpal, and a stronger Judicial Accountability and Standards Bill or the Nyay Palika Lokpal. On the issue of the investigations against the Prime Minister, the draft bill suggests that the Anti-Corruption Lokpal should not investigate on his role in matters relating to intelligence and security.

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