New Delhi: Former IPS officer Kiran Bedi, who protested along with anti-corruption activist Anna Hazare for a strong Lokpal Bill, has come out in support of the new revised draft even as Anna Hazare and Aam Aadmi Party convener Arvind Kejriwal continued to oppose. Kiran Bedi said the new draft addressed most of the concerns and these were baby steps towards improvement.
The Union Cabinet on Thursday cleared a revised draft of the Lokpal Bill, allowing states to appoint Lokayuktas, but the contentious issue of the independence of the CBI remained unresolved. The amendments for strengthening the CBI have been accepted, except the one which sought approval of Lokpal for transfer of officers of CBI investigating cases referred by Lokpal. The bill will have the provision of appointment of CBI Director by a three-member collegium comprising the Prime Minister, Leader of the Opposition in Lok Sabha and the Chief Justice of India.
A public servant facing an inquiry by the Lokpal will be given an opportunity to be heard at the stage of the preliminary inquiry. The amended draft also leaves the appointment of Lokayuktas to the states.
"States have to pass Lokayukta Bill within 365 days of passing by Parliament," said Minister of State in the PMO V Narayanasamy in a press briefing. The revised bill incorporates a number of changes recommended by the Rajya Sabha Select Committee, including appointment of the Director of Prosecution by the CVC.
"A total 16 amendments were proposed by Standing Committee of Rajya Sabha. Out of those, 14 have been accepted," Narayanasamy said. Prime Minister, leader of Opposition and Chief Justice of India are in the Standing Committee.
The new bill also has a extra protection for public servants, giving them the right to present their view to the Lokpal. The government, however, has not accepted a key recommendation of the panel that an official facing an inquiry by the Lokpal should not be given an opportunity to be heard at the stage of the preliminary inquiry.
The Select Committee, to which the controversial bill was referred in view of sharp differences between political parties, has recommended delinking of the creation of Lokayuktas from the Lokpal Bill.
"Public servants will be given a chance to explain before an inquiry and people affiliated with political parties will not be on the Lokpal panel," said Narayanasamy. He added Central Bureau of Investigation will be under supervision of Lokpal, while government aided NGOs, education institutions, and temples will be out of Lokpal purview.
AAP Convenor Arvind Kejriwal had demanded, "Why does the government not fulfill one single demand and make the CBI independent. There is no point making committees after committees."
Anti-corruption activist Anna Hazare had also demanded that the CVC and CBI be brought completely under the Lokpal. "I have written a letter to Sonia Gandhi and the Prime Minister asking whether CBI and CVC will be under the Lokpal. If they're not, how will we check corruption," questioned Anna.