The government on Thursday amended the controversial Lokpal Bill, delinking it from the setting up of Lokayuktas in the states and transferring powers of sanction of prosecution against public servant to the ombudsman.
A Rajya Sabha Select Committee had recommended the replacement of Part-III of the Bill with a new Section 63, which provides for setting up of the institution of Lokayukta through enactment of a law by the state legislature within a period of 365 days from the date of commencement of the Act.
Part -III was one of the most controversial sections of the Bill with political parties contending that it amounted to the central government encroaching upon the rights of the states, while civil society organisations were in favour of these suggestions.
The Bill was passed in the Lok Sabha in December 2011 and was tabled in the Rajya Sabha in May 2012. Subsequently, it was referred to a select committee for examination and amendment of the contentious clause.
The Cabinet, however, rejected the select panel’s recommendation that a public servant’s comments during a preliminary inquiry should not be mandated. In Clause 20(1), the select committee has recommended that the Lokpal be given the power to order an investigation straightaway (without first ordering a preliminary inquiry) in case the Lokpal finds that a prima facie case exists. “Taking away the opportunity of hearing would in many cases, result in harassment of public servant. It is felt that an opportunity at the level of preliminary inquiry and at the time of ordering a formal investigation should be given to the public servant,” the Cabinet note rejecting the select panel suggestion stated. Minister of State for Personnel Narayansamy endorsed the views of the government, saying “the person should know what allegations are levelled against him.”
The revised bill, now approved by the cabinet is likely to be tabled in the upper house during upcoming budget session after which it will go through the Lok Sabha once again.
The ‘Gandhian’ behind the renewed Lokpal movement, Anna Hazare also thrashed the report calling it a ‘weak Lokpal bill’ and vowed to launch another agitation if the government decided to go ahead with it.