The Prime Minister’s Office was already in the ambit of the previous drafts of the Lokpal Bill. However, doing a U-turn in the last two months, the Central government omitted it from its draft Bill, activist and former IPS officer Kiran Bedi told a press conference here on Saturday.
“All the past Lokpals which the government drafted had the Prime Minister. They had the Prime Minister till now when they drafted this Bill. They all agreed, including Mr. Chidambaram. There is documentation to establish that. It’s only in the last two months their mind has changed,” Ms. Bedi said, in response to a question on the daily functioning of the government in the event of allegations against the PM.
Ms. Bedi said even in the last Parliamentary Committee meeting, chaired by [Union Finance Minister] Pranab Mukherjee, the government agreed the PM should be under the Lokpal.
“India has signed the [United Nations Convention against Corruption]. There is no distinction in that. None is excluded in that. It has the provision that if you are excluding, you have a parallel law to include those excluded like the Judicial Accountability Bill. You bring in a law so that it meets the same clauses of independent investigation. Judges judging judges is not independent. Lokpal judging Lokpal is not independent. Government judging itself through the Central Bureau of Investigation is not independent. But an independent Lokpal, even though appointed by a selection committee, once appointed is independent. That is what we are looking for.”
She cited the instances of former Prime Ministers Rajiv Gandhi and Narasimha Rao when they were surrounded by allegations of corruption. “What happened then? If there is a paralysis of government, let the party have a new cabinet. Why should we have a PM in whom we have no confidence? The PM [leads] the government. They sink or swim together,” she said.
Asked why the Lokpal activists were not calling for Congress president Sonia Gandhi to be brought under the ambit of the Lokpal, Ms. Bedi said, the movement was targeting the system and not individuals. “We are trying to create a system forever. We are changing the system. We are creating a system that goes beyond all of us. There are no names.”
Asked why there was no demand for death sentence to the corrupt, Ms. Bedi said the Team Anna had sought “incremental punishment” as per the seniority level.
Ms. Bedi said there were “dangers” in both the drafts of the Bill – the one by the government and the one by civil society. However, in the latter “there’s less danger,” she said in the context of appointments to the Lokpal.
She pointed out to the many distinctions in the two draft Bills. The major difference was the exclusion of the PM and the judiciary. The selection procedure for the government was “heavily political” while that of the civil society was “neutral.”
“The government Bill does not involve civil society. Your people’s Bill involves civil society, with even a provision for social audit,” she said. Hindu