No one listens to the PM, says Sushma

Last Updated: Thu, Aug 04, 2011 16:13 hrs

New Delhi, Aug 4 (IBNS) Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Sushma Swaraj on Thursday opposed the government's draft of the anti-corruption Lokpal Bill in the Lok Sabha as it kept the Prime Minister out of its purview.

"Government introduced the Lokpal Bill in Lok Sabha today. We opposed the introduction because Prime Minister has been kept out of the purview of Lokpal Bill," tweeted Swaraj.

"Our categoric position is that Prime Minister should also be within the ambit of the Lokpal Bill," she said.

The Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha said the BJP will not 'allow' the Bill in its present form.

"The Prime Minister should be included within the ambit of the Bill. If this change is done, then only we will allow this Bill. We will not allow the Bill to pass in its present form," Swaraj told reporters outside the Parliament here on Thursday.

"Our criminal laws- CrPC (Criminal Procedure Code) and the IPC (Indian Penal Code)-are based on equality. There are no separate laws or categories for people. This Bill creates wants to create a new category that will not include the PM," she said.

"We want a strong Lokpal Bill. But if the PM is kept outside the purview, how much effective will it be?" said Swaraj.

"Also, I don't understand why the Bill should not include the PM (Manmohan Singh), when he himself said on record that he has no problem to be under the Lokpal scanner. As it is, the PM speaks less, and when he speaks, no one listens to him," she said.

Lokpal Bill was tabled in the Lok Sabha on Thursday, setting the stage for yet another high-strung session in the House that has been plagued by cacophonous bickering this week.

As the bill was tabled in the House, there were protests outside with the Team Anna members burning copies of the government draft.

They protested calling the government version a Joke-Pal Bill.

"This is anti-poor," said Arvind Kejriwal, a key member of the Anna group.

In the House, Swaraj asked why the PM was kept outside the purview of the Bill.

Rejecting the version of the civil society representatives, the union cabinet on July 28 approved the Lokpal Bill draft by the ministers in the drafting panel, keeping the office of Prime Minister and higher judiciary outside its ambit on expected lines.

The Bill provides for the establishment of the institution of Lokpal (Ombudsman) to inquire into allegations of corruption against certain public functionaries and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.

Against the wishes of the civil society representatives led by social activist Anna Hazare, the Prime Minister was kept outside the purview of the Lokpal, who will be an anti-corruption ombudsman empowered to probe high corruption.

The PM, however, can be probed by the Lokpal after he demits office.

The MPs when they speak in Parliament will not be under the Lokpal, but they would otherwise be under its purview, the cabinet approved draft said.

The higher judiciary is also outside the purview of the Lokpal Bill draft.

"The salient features of the proposed draft bill are that the Lokpal will consist of a chairperson and eight members of which 50 percent judicial members," said union minister Ambica Soni earlier.

The chairperson will be from judiciary and only a serving or retired Chief Justice of India or a judge of the Supreme Court will be eligible to be appointed as the chairperson, she said.

"The members other than the judicial member should be a person of impeccable integrity, outstanding ability and should have special knowledge and expertise of not less than 25 years in matters relating to anti-corruption policy, public administration, vigilance, finance including insurance and banking, law and management.

"In the overall thrust of the UPA government after instituting, legislating Right To Information Act in the first UPA government the thrust has been greater accountability and transparency in public life," she said.

"We will also introduce judicial Accountability Bill, Whistle Blowers´ Protection Bill, and the CVC (Chief Vigilance Commissioner) bill," she said.

The government said after the Prime Minister demitted his office he will be under the Lokpal Bill.

Anna Hazare group member and former supercop Kiran Bedi said the draft that was approved had nothing for common man.

"It is not only PM and higher judiciary, but many other things, many vital posts and agencies are kept out. It is a fractured bill. There is nothing for the common man," said Kiran Bedi, a key member of the civil society group spearheading the movement for a strong Lokpal.

The joint-committee of five ministers and five activists had come up with two separate drafts of the Lokpal bill after key differences emerged between the two sides.

Anna Hazare had earlier threatened to start another hunger strike from Aug 16 if the bill failed to address the concerns of the people on corruption.

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