No decision made yet on PM in the Lokpal ambit

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Prime VIP
No decision made yet on PM in the Lokpal ambit: Abhishek Manu Singhvi

New Delhi: One of the most contentious issues in the Lokpal Bill is whether the Prime Minister's office should be within the anti-corruption ombudsman's ambit. There is still no consensus on this within the Parliamentary panel which is drafting the Bill. The draft accessed by NDTV has so far remained absolutely silent on the issue. Now, as the panel meets for its last round of discussions, its Chairman Abhishek Manu Singhvi has told NDTV that it saw three different opinions on the issue of the Prime Minister's inclusion. They were now looking for a consensus within the group as they wind up the deliberations, Mr Singhvi said.

Barkha Dutt: Let's look at something that is a very, very important part of this debate, one that the draft that at least I have read is silent on. And this perhaps could evolve. The last meetings are to take place yet. Whether the PM should within the ambit of the Lok Pal. Fiercely debated in the public and political space. Before I ask you to answer why the draft is silent, and you may choose to say you will not comment on the draft, but the issue remains. It's an irony of history that your father LM Singh is the one who gave the political lexicon, the word Lok Pal. And interestingly Jawaharlal Nehru reacted to the Scandinavian word, the original, which is the Ombudsmen and in fact said which zoo is this animal from and this is something that I find mentioned in the draft that I read. At the time in 1963, Jawaharlal Nehru as PM, was fascinated by the Ombudsman to be called the Lok Pal because it even had the authority to scrutinize the role of the PM. Your panel has looked at the history of the previous bills. The last three bills have all included the PM under the ambit of the Lok Pal. The draft that is currently in circulation does not. Why are you shying away from bringing the PMO within the ambit?

Abhishek Manu Singhvi: Barkha, first of all let me repeat the caveat that I have no knowledge of the contents of any draft you are talking about. So let's talk about the concept. Obviously there are all kinds of reports and I don't know which report you are talking about. Answer number one is the simplest answer. We have not today reached the stage of adoption, rejection or dissention on the PM.

Barkha Dutt: But in terms of public perception and political morality it is a huge issue.

Abhishek Manu Singhvi: There are 25 issues. If we have done 24 of the 25 issues, and we have one issue left to discuss we are towards the close.

Barkha Dutt: Why did you say that, because isn't it true that there are many deep political divisions on this issue?

Abhishek Manu Singhvi:
Actually I personally believe, I am at liberty to say this to you, I am not going to discuss any of the actual stands which we are going to take ultimately. But the lines are clearly drawn. And each has a merit. I am not at all saying any particular point of view is merit list. One stand (is that) include the PM fully, fully mind you, no substantive exclusion, but defer prosecution. Another stand - exclude him altogether absolutely. That's also a view. Third - include him but with substantive exclusion on subject matter. Now each had a point of view, each has a problem of debate. I think we are going to sort it out quite easily and I don't see it as major an issue as the press makes out because the PM whether is partially in or fully in, it's not going to be a very big issue

Barkha Dutt: Isn't it ironic that Nehru in your father's time. Manmohan Singh today, we have PMs saying that we do not mind, but people around them are saying no no no no ....

Abhishek Manu Singhvi: How are you assuming that A party or B party is wanting the PM out? That's not so. This is not the stand. I'll tell you the government draft fully includes the PM actually but the only thing is, he is fully liable, but he is to be prosecuted after he demits office. That means there is no substantive exclusion. So my personal view, I am not suggesting I mind, my personal view is that in a sense when you include the PM fully, you only defer prosecution, you are achieving a lot of stability in terms of also having him accountable and not destabilizing. But I am quite happy if the members agree. I am not giving my point of view. I mean I have no problem if the majority of members feel that there should be a different model. So that's how we are going to sort it out. It's not a major problem. It's not a divisive issue. It's not a fundamental issue.