No consensus in Lokpal Parl panel on inclusion of PM

New Delhi, Nov 15: Consensus eluded the Parliamentary panel on Lokpal on the issue of including the Prime Minister within the ambit of the ombudsman with a majority opposing the suggestion, saying it could lead to complications while some others favoured it with riders.

While some members of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances and Law and Justice felt the Prime Minister should be brought under the Lokpal, others felt this should be avoided.

A middle path was suggested by some other members who said the Prime Minister can be brought within the ambit of the ombudsman but with some riders like excluding his duties relating to external affairs and internal security, among others.

Some members also argued that since the PM is included under the Prevention of Corruption Act, there is no need to put him in the ambit of the Lokpal as well. However, the opposition parties have used the same argument to say that if the high office is covered under PCA, why not the Lokpal.

Sources said though a majority of the members in the Committee felt the PM should not be included within Lokpal, no decision could be taken and the matter will be further discussed in subsequent meetings.

The Committee also discussed the status of the Central Bureau of Investigation.

"Opposition members said it should remain a permanent, independent investigation agency of the Government of India and its directorate of prosecution should be made independent of any government interference," sources said.

The Parliamentary panel also discussed the composition of the selection and search committee for the Lokpal. Civil society activist Anna Hazare had demanded that there should be 12 members in this committee.

"Members felt the selection committee should comprise of the Prime Minister, who will represent the Executive; the Lok Sabha Speaker who will represent the Legislature; the Chief Justice of India to represent the judiciary; and the Leader of Opposition," sources said.

Other members who should be in the selection committee, according to suggestions made in the committee meeting, are the CAG, UPSC Chairperson and the Chief Election Commissioner.

Some of the members said such a selection panel would be competent enough to find an eminent person for the post of Lokpal. Since this committee is so-powerful, it was felt that there is no need for a separate search committee.

The committee also further discussed the proposal to include Group B government officials as well under the Lokpal. The issue had figured in yesterday's meeting of the committee.

"There was a discussion of having Group B officials along with Group A but no final decision was taken on the matter. But most members agreed that Group C and D cannot be included under Lokpal as the number of personnel is too big," sources said.

Former SP leader Amar Singh, who has been ailing for sometime, attended today's meeting of the Parliamentary panel on Lokpal.

Sources said he suggested that the Prime Minister should be excluded from the ambit of Lokpal.

RJD Chief Lalu Prasad and LJP President Ram Vilas Paswan also spoke on the same lines, saying the PM should be kept out of the Lokpal's purview.

Opinion on this issue got divided on party lines with the Congress, its allies and parties close to it suggesting that the PM be kept out while the opposition- mainly the BJP and the Left- were of the view that he should be included with some riders.


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