Divergent views on bringing prime minister under lokpal bill

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Old 25-Apr-2011
Divergent views on bringing prime minister under lokpal bill

New Delhi April 25:

A consultation here threw up differences on bringing the Prime Minister under the ambit of the Lokpal Bill, being formulated by a 10-member joint drafting committee that includes five members from civil society.

The round table, dominated by eminent judges and lawyers, however, excused higher judiciary from the ambit of the proposed Bill and favoured a “separate mechanism” to make High Court and Supreme Court judges accountable for misconduct.

“When we vouch for judicial independence, accountability has to come. It is the manner of accountability that was debated and it was felt that since a separate mechanism under the proposed Judicial Accountability Bill was on the anvil, the higher judiciary need not be under the ambit of the Lokpal Bill,” the former Chief Justices of India, M.N. Venkatachaliah and J.S. Verma, told journalists after the day-long consultation.

However, not everyone agreed with the idea. There was a suggestion that the proposed Judicial Accountability Bill be merged with the Lokpal Bill, which may be re-christened the Lokpal and Judicial Accountability Bill. The meeting suggested that the issue of the Central Vigilance Commission and the Central Bureau of Investigation to come under the Lokpal be left for the drafting committee.

On the criticism that the Bill was “draconian,” Justice Verma said their meeting recommended that care should be taken to see that citizens' liberty and rights were not lost sight of and due processes were there. Declaring their support to the initiative taken by the activist-members of the joint panel, the two former CJIs emphasised that there were no differences in civil society. “For the first time, something is happening that has never happened before. This exercise by Anna Hazare mobilised public opinion and also showed public anger, which must be channelled and something pragmatic should emerge.

Maybe the government has made a virtue of a necessity, but it also needs to be congratulated for responding the way it did to the people's desire for a strong, accountable Lokpal legislation.” Justice Verma said that even if different points of view were expressed, the objective of all participants at the round table was the same. “Ultimately, Parliament is supreme but you cannot ignore public opinion. People's participatory role in governance cannot be confined to voting and elections.”

The round table was organised by Lok Satta, the Centre for Media Studies, the Foundation for Democratic Reforms and Transparency International. Among those who attended the meeting were co-chairman of the joint panel Mr. Shanti Bhushan; members Santosh Hegde, Mr. Prashant Bhushan and Arvind Kejriwal and the former IPS officer, Kiran Bedi. Among those who attended were Justice Rajindar Sachar; the former Attorney-General, Soli Sorabjee; the former Chief Election Commissioners, N. Gopalaswami and T.S. Krishnamurthy; and the former Chief Vigilance Commissioner, Pratyush Sinha.

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