Prime minister Manmohan Singh on Wednesday said he has no hesitation in bringing himself under the purview of the proposed Lokpal, but strongly ruled out subjecting the higher judiciary to the scrutiny of the anti-graft ombudsman.
In an interaction with a group of editors, Singh said the lokpal bill was an essential and desirable legislation, which his government was committed to introduce during the Monsoon session, though would not be a panacea.
The PM conceded corruption was a big issue which had caught the imagination of the people, and assured that the government will effectively deal with it.
“Some events — the telecom scam, the commonwealth games — have caused genuine concerns among large classes of middle class opinion. That cannot be wished away. So people want whosoever is guilty should be punished,” Singh said.
The issue of bringing the PM within the Lokpal’s ambit was discussed in the Cabinet last year. “I for one, have no hesitation in bringing myself under the purview. But there are Cabinet colleagues who said Sir this is not your personal concern…it is about the institution,” Singh said.
The prime minister said the serving judges and other legal experts had "grave reservations" on bringing the higher judiciary under the lokpal's ambit. “The Supreme Court has to ultimately pronounce on everything. How will it pronounce on complex issues, if it is subject to restrictions of lokpal?” Singh observed.
The prime minister said he respected the civil society activists and it was precisely for this reason that he "took the trouble" interacting with Anna Hazare and Baba Ramdev.
“In February-March itself I had an hour long meeting with Anna Hazare, the Bhushans, both father and son, Kejriwal and Kiran Bedi. They were all there and I assured them that we are committed to come with the (Lokpal) bill in the Monsoon session and it was not a commitment made under duress,” the prime minister said.
Singh said he was confident about a national consensus emerging on the lokpal bill and it would be passed in both houses of parliament without any major difficulty.
What about the bugging issue?
There was a complaint that the office was bugged. I asked the IB to do a thorough check. The IB reported back to me that there was nothing of the sort.
Did it go through the Home Minister? Did he know?
No. This was on a need-to-know principle.
There was a question of rotational chief minister in J&K?
There was a decision of Congress high command that they (NC) would have a full-term as CM. We have not done anything to reverse that
What about the situation in the state?
We hope Pakistan will leave Kashmir alone, because they have their own share of internal problems... We have to keep our fingers crossed.