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In role model for Arvind’s tough Act,phone taps,whistleblower protection

The proposed bill will seek to take from original Jan Lokpal draft.

Written by Aneesha Mathur | Newdelhi |
December 26, 2013 12:06:42 am

A tough challenge awaits the Aam Aadmi Party if it has to keep Arvind Kejriwal’s promise of bringing in a Jan Lokpal bill within 15 days of forming the government in Delhi.

Amending the existing Lokayukta Act would have involved getting the Lt Governor’s assent and getting the amendment bill passed in the assembly,where getting the numbers would have been uncertain in itself. The party has,however,made it clear it wants the Act repealed,with the replacement modelled on the Jan Lokpal draft prepared by India Against Corruption rather than on the Lokpal and Lokayukta Bill passed recently in Parliament.

Repeal is fraught with several tougher challenges than amending the Delhi Act would have been. Under the procedure for the Delhi assembly,the repeal of an existing Act requires the assent of the union ministries of law and home,and the AAP has stated it will target corruption in the Congress. It is only after the two ministries have given permission,and the President his assent,that the new bill can be introduced in the assembly,where the AAP has only 28 of 70 members.

AAP leader Prashant Bhushan,an advocate,said the party would certainly repeal the existing Act and the new bill would be “substantially similar to the Janlokpal bill” of IAC. Should the Centre fail to give its consent to the proposed law,he said,“there will be a lot of noise and protest”.

The AAP has approached several experts,including former Delhi Lokayukta Manmohan Sarin,for suggestions on the bill it proposes. “We will finalise the draft in a couple of days,” said Somnath Bharti,MLA and member of the AAP legal cell.

Draft vs Bill vs Act

A key difference between the original Jan Lokpal draft and the Lokpal Bill is that the former proposes to give the ombudsman wider powers of investigation,besides the powers of conducting trials and imposing penalties. In terms of powers given,the Delhi Lokayukta Act is the most limited of the three.

CRIME & PUNISHMENT: The Jan Lokpal draft seeks to empower the Lokpal to approve interception and monitoring of data and phone conversations. Lokpal investigating officers would have the authority to investigate offences under the Prevention of Corruption Act with all the powers vested in a police officer under the CrPC. The draft also seeks to give the Lokpal bench the power to conclude an inquiry and determine the penalty for a public servant found guilty.

The powers under the newly passed central bill,while not as sweeping as those under the Jan Lokpal draft,do include investigation and prosecution wings. It authorises the Lokpal bench to attach during investigation any property believed to be proceeds of corruption,and to order the transfer or suspension of an official under investigation. The investigation branch’s reports are to be treated as chargesheets in special courts for handling cases under the corruption Act.

The Delhi Lokayukta,in contrast,has no dedicated investigation or prosecution wing,and can only recommend action against accused officials by the competent authority,which may or may not accept the suggestions. There have been several instances when the LG or the President has rejected the Lokayukta’s recommendations.

CBI & WHISTLEBLOWERS: The Jan Lokpal draft sought to bring the CBI under the Lokpal,a provision not included in the Lokpal Bill. The bill authorises the Lokpal to get investigation conducted by any force constituted under the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act. “The way the Janlokpal bill demanded that the CBI be brought under the control of the Lokpal,we would want the Crime Branch brought under the Lokayukta,or maybe an alternative investigation unit created,” said Prashant Bhushan.

Also out of the Lokpal Bill are provisions in the Jan Lokpal draft for receiving complaints from whistleblowers,and for the protection of the whistleblower.

COMPLAINTS: The Jan Lokpal document and the Lokpal Bill both state that a complaint in writing by any person is enough to start proceedings. The Delhi Lokayukta can conduct a preliminary inquiry on the basis of evidence. The Jan Lokpal draft says the complaints could relate to misconduct under the Prevention of Corruption Act,violation of the CCS rules,maladministration,and grievances. The Lokpal Bill,on the other hand,restricts the complaints to acts defined under the corruption Act.

The Delhi Act incorporates a wide range of complaints. The Lokayukta can take up,besides corruption,also allegations of violation of norms of integrity and conduct,misuse of position,and improper or corrupt motives.

An example of “integrity” and “motives” being taken up came last month. The Lokayukta sent the President a recommendation to “advise” the government that “sops and political promises on the eve of elections should be shunned” after observing that certain announcements were “unbecoming” of then CM Sheila Dikshit. In another report,the Lokayukta had recommended that the Lt Governor “caution that councillors should not clear funds for family members” following allegations regarding the grant of funds to an NGO run by the wife of BJP leader Vijender Gupta.

RESERVATION: The Lokpal Bill has reservation for members; the Jan Lokpal draft has none. The Delhi Lokayukta is a single-member authority.

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