PM under Lokpal ambit but not CBI; Hazare furious

Anna Hazare and the Indian government were set for a showdown after the cabinet Tuesday finalised its Lokpal bill bringing the Prime Minister under its ambit but leaving out two other key demands of the activists — inclusion of the CBI and the lower bureaucracy. A furious Hazare dubbed the government ‘dishonest’ and vowed a hunger strike from December 27.

Capping weeks of intense internal debate within the government and the Congress party, the cabinet, chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, approved the bill after an hour-long meeting in the Parliament house.

The bill brings the Prime Minister under the anti-graft ombudsman with riders, but accepts only one point – appointment of Lokayuktas in states – from the sense of the house resolution conveyed to Hazare in August this year but keeps out both the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the lower bureaucracy.

Hazare, 74, reacted furiously to the government’s announcement, terming the bill weak and alleging that the government’s intentions were suspicious. He said there was no way to get a strong Lokpal except through protests.

“Their (central government) intention is not clear. They think that they are betraying Anna Hazare but in fact they are betraying the people who are fed up with corruption,” Hazare said.

He said there would also be a ‘jail-bharo’ agitation throughout the country on December 30-31.

Restating his resolve to wage a relentless battle for a strong Jan Lokpal bill, Anna Hazare said that he would continue fighting till his last breath. “So long as I have life in me, I will continue fighting,” he said.

Team Anna member Arvind Kejriwal said the government had “cheated the people by excluding the CBI”.

The bill is likely to be introduced and put up for consideration and passage in Lok Sabha on December 22, the scheduled last day of the winter session.

This means the Parliament may be extended just for a day for this purpose.

However, the Lok Sabha’s Business Advisory Committee will take a final call on the issue Wednesday.

There are two proposals – to discuss the Lokpal bill on December 22-23 or to discuss the bill during an extended period of the winter session from December 27-29.

Among its provisions, the bill puts the lower bureaucracy under the Central Vigilance Commissioner with the superintendency of the Lokpal, but says the ombudsman would have no investigation wing and will only have a prosecution department with lawyers under it.

Investigation in cases referred by the Lokpal would be done by the CBI independently, said sources.

The Lokpal would also have no suo motu powers to take up cases and would do that on the basis of complaints filed before it.

Not less than 50 per cent posts would be reserved for the Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes, minorities and women in the Lokpal institution, which would have a chairman and eight members.

While there would be no impeachment of the Lokpal, the bill provides for his removal by the Supreme Court based either on a petition signed by 100 MPs or by citizens, which will have to be approved by the President.

The Lokpal, which would have a constitutional status, will be selected by a panel including the Prime Minister, the Lok Sabha speaker, the leader of the opposition in Lok Sabha, an eminent jurist and the Chief Justice of India or his nominee.