New Delhi: Former Chief Justice of Delhi High Court AP Shah, who was named by Arvind Kejriwal as an internal Lokpal of India Against Corruption (IAC), on Saturday termed the Jan Lokpal Bill drafted by erstwhile Team Anna as "too draconian". Addressing a conference of state Lokayuktas in New Delhi, Shah favoured setting up of a strong Lokpal to contain corruption in the country but criticised the Jan Lokpal Bill saying certain provisions of it were not within limits of the Constitution.
"We should have a strong Lokpal. There is no doubt about it. But I am not suggesting something like the Jan Lokpal as envisaged by Kejriwal because it was too draconian and most of the provision I personally feel are not within the limits of the Constitution," he said.
Kejriwal last month had announced setting up of a three-member panel of retired judges to probe allegations of wrongdoings against prominent IAC members Prashant Bhushan, Mayank Gandhi and Anjali Damania. Besides Justice Shah, other two members of the panel are Justice (Retd) B H Marlapalle of the Bombay High Court and Justice (Retd) Jaspal Singh of the Delhi High Court.
In his address, Justice Shah said the Lokpal and Lokayukta Bill, 2011, which was passed by the Lok Sabha, has several lacunae and it will not help in effectively dealing with corruption. A Rajya Sabha Select Committee is currently examining the Bill and is likely to give its report in the Winter session of Parliament.
Giving an example of the shortcomings in the Bill, he said as per a provision the preliminary investigating wing of the Lokayukta will carry out a preliminary inquiry upon receiving complaint against a government officer or a minister and comments will be sought against the respondent. "Suppose the Lokayukta receives information that a particular bureaucrat has stashed money abroad or kept unaccounted money in some bank account. In that case is he going to be called and asked what is your explanation?" he asked.
Shah said powers vested with most of the existing Lokayuktas are recommendatory in nature. He asked the anti-corruption watchdogs to approach court if their orders are not followed by the state governments.
At the conference, a number of Lokayuktas including those from Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Andhra Pradesh and Jharkhand spoke about further strengthening the institution to deal with increasing cases of graft. Though the Uttar Pradesh Lokayukta and Up-Lokayuktas Act is one of the "weakest" legislation comparing to Lokayukta acts of other states, yet he successfully managed to force resignation of eight ministers in Mayawati government, Uttar Pradesh Lokayukta NK Mehrotra said.
"In the last regime, the earlier Chief Minister accepted my eight recommendations by removing eight Cabinet ministers...it was the media who made it as a breaking news that Lokayukta of Uttar Pradesh have got sacked eight ministers. The public became aware about corruption," he said. "...It is because of the media pressure that the earlier Chief Minister was forced to accept all the recommendations and eight ministers were removed and vigilance inquiry for their prosecution under Prevention of Corruption Act were initiated," he said.
Mehrotra said as Mayawati did not reject his recommendations, current Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav will find it difficult to refuse his recommendations. "Now this Chief Minister cannot have the courage to refuse my report because the earlier Chief Minister was accepting (the recommendations)," he said.