'Govt has given representation, not reservation in lokpal'
In the debate on the lokpal bill in Rajya Sabha, Congress leader Abhishek Singhvi urged the BJP to join the government in passing the bill for the sake of the nation. He added that the BJP's conditions were excuses not to pass the bill.
Rubbishing the argument that bringing lokayuktas under Article 253 was violative of the federal structure, Singhvi said it was the same constitution that had allowed Parliament inroads into state laws from Articles 249 to 253 in the national interest.
"Article 253 is a constitutionally decided national interest provision. How can it be an attack on federalism?" Singhvi said. He reminded the House that even the NHRC, including state rights commissions, were made under Article 253.
Singhvi obliquely accused the BJP of siding with those outside Parliament who were trying to create a "behemoth" which would have overriding powers, and in front of whom the PM’s office would appear a "pygmy".
He defended government’s administrative control over CBI while maintaining independence over investigation. Stating that even independent bodies like the CEC and CAG were under the government’s administrative control, he said, "Who is the controlling cadre authority of the CEC? The law ministry. Who is the controlling cadre authority of CAG? The finance ministry."
He also hailed the separation of investigation and prosecution in principle. Defending the selection process for lokpal, he said, "Can you create a law where the government must be in a minority in selection committee?"
Singhvi said the government had given representation, not reservation in lokpal.
'The games don't change with such phoney institutions'
Urging the government not to create bad history, senior BJP leader Arun Jaitley called upon it to accept the amendments the opposition parties had moved.
Saying the bill violated federalism, Jaitley said that providing for lokayuktas under Article 253 of the constitution would make them mandatory and encroach upon a state subject. He added the bill be amended to make the lokayuktas optional under Article 252. He defended the BJP's vote against the constitutional amendment bill on this ground, adding it would support it under Article 252.
Calling the bill weak, Jaitley added, "You want to create a phoney lokpal and create a smokescreen that you are giving it constitutional status. The games don't change with such phoney institutions."
Jaitley faulted the investigation procedure in the bill as a "round robin" with the matter going through multiple agencies. "Were they making a criminal law or a jalebi," Jaitley said. He demanded the CBI be freed from government's control and its administrative control be given to the lokpal.
Jaitley said the selection committee of the lokpal would have a 3 out of 5 majority of the government. The PM, the speaker and a jurist appointed by the president would practically be government nominees. Only the Leader of Opposition and Chief Justice of India would be from outside. He said the selection process needed broadbasing. He also called minority quota in lokpal unconstitutional.
Jaitley said each party would be tested by people during the vote: "We have to see whether we collide with history or write a new one."
Inclusion of Team Anna in bill draft committee a mistake
CPM leader Sitaram Yechury on Thursday charged the government with mishandling the issues related to the lokpal bill and Baba Ramdev's agitation.
Participating in the debate, Yechury reminded the government that it had only itself to blame for granting legitimacy to Anna Hazare's team by forming a joint drafting committee with them. Responding to the minister of state for personnel V Narayanasamy's statement that opposition leaders said one thing in parliament and something else at Jantar Mantar in front of Anna Hazare, Yechury said his party did not believe in changing its stand.
"Who provided them legitimacy in joint drafting committee meeting ?…We have not raised the issue of your ministers sitting in yoga posture with a saffron robed guru," he said, evoking laughter in the House.
Yechury said the CPI(M) had four major objections to the lokpal bill — imposition of Lokayuktas on states, lack of autonomy for CBI, government's control over the appointment and removal of lokpal and inclusion of corporates and foreign-funded NGOs under the proposed anti-corruption watchdog. Without naming the Trinamool Congress, he took a dig at the party saying that certain parties were now opposing some clauses. "It would have been better if they had taken up this in the cabinet," Yechury said.
CPI leader D Raja slammed attempts being made by the civil society to "diminish the position" of parliament.
"You are not the wisest people in the world," he said, adding the lokpal Bill falls short of being a strong measure to curb corruption.