The government's decision to exclude the prime minister from the ambit of the lokpal contradicts the position taken by previous governments on this issue between 1989 and 2001, in their failed attempts to get the bill passed in Parliament.
A look at the previous bills shows though the lokpal bill was introduced for the first time in Parliament in 1968, it was only in 1989, during the fifth unsuccessful attempt, that it proposed to cover the prime minister.
This trend continued in the bills introduced in 1996, 1998 and 2001, shows the data compiled by the PRS Legislative Research service.
"The office of the prime minister was brought within the ambit of lokpal by the government headed by VP Singh through the 1989 bill. In subsequent bills, it was proposed to bring the prime minister in the purview of the lokpal," stated a parliamentary standing committee report of 2002, submitted by its then chairman Pranab Mukherjee.
Interestingly, the bill introduced in Parliament during the late VP Singh's tenure, included his office but excluded MPs.
The committee headed by Mukherjee had stated, "Though the PM was first among equals… but given the general perception about the prevalence of corruption, making public representatives accountable would enhance the reputation of those holding high offices." The first and second lokpal bills in 1968 and 1971, had proposed setting-up of lokayuktas in states also.
In the last four decades and eight attempts, the lokpal bill underwent many changes.
The statement of objects and reasons for the bill introduced by the minister of state for personnel, V Narayansamy in the Lok Sabha on Thursday, stated: "A need has been felt to constitute a mechanism for dealing with complaints on corruption against public functionaries in high places."