The UPA government on Thursday accused BJP leader Sushma Swaraj of adopting “double standards” on the issue of bringing the office of Prime Minister within the ambit of the Lokpal Bill.
“The post of Lokayukta in Gujarat has remained vacant since 2003 … The post of Chief Minister is exempted from the Lokayukta Acts in Uttarakhand and Jharkhand … In Bihar too, where the BJP is part of the coalition government, the CM is not covered,” Union Ministers P. Chidambaram, Kapil Sibal, and V. Narayanasamy pointed out at a joint press conference here.
Asked about the criticism that law should be applied equally and none could be above law, Mr. Chidambaram said Article 14 of the Constitution (equality before law) did not prohibit reasonable classifications. “The Prime Minister’s office is a class by itself.”
The Ministers noted that under the Bill, the Prime Minister would be exempted only as long as he or she was in power, and would come within its purview on demitting office.
Asked about the seven-year limitation, under this provision, for taking action, Mr. Chidambaram said this could be changed if the parliamentary committee so decided. “The provision is subject to change.”
The Ministers also questioned the BJP’s “inaction” on a draft Bill on the Lokpal when the National Democratic Alliance was in power.
Pointing out that the Parliamentary Standing Committee, then headed by Pranab Mukherjee, submitted its report in February 2002, Mr. Sibal said, “The NDA government had two years to pass the Bill. But, they didn’t.”
“Affront to Parliament”
The Ministers criticised Team Anna for burning copies of the Bill in different parts of the country, saying it was an affront to Parliament. For, the Bill was now the property of the House.
Asked whether any action would be taken against the protesters, Mr. Narayanasamy said, “It is for the local authorities to take appropriate steps.” Hindu