BeyondHeadlines Staff Reporter
New Delhi: Amid the uncertainty of the participation of the Anna Hazare group in the Lokpal Bill drafting panel, the government is all set to draw a line that will see a conditional inclusion of the prime minister and exclusion of higher judiciary and actions of MPs in Parliament.
Despite having opened the web of consultations wide with finance minister Pranab Mukherjee seeking the opinions of states and political parties on the contentious issues, the government is clear that the demands put forward by the Hazare group cannot be conceded.
The mood in government has also firmed up after the action taken against Baba Ramdev and his supporters who went on fast at Ramlila Maidan demanding a law to ensure return of black money or illegal wealth stowed in foreign accounts. The government’s tough stance is sure to be reflected in its negotiations on the Lokpal bill.
Sources said the proposals advocated by the Hazare group were constitutionally unviable and were bound to run afoul of the courts. The point has been made to civil society activists on the joint drafting committee and was not very vehemently contested in the previous meetings of the panel.
Amending the Constitution to allow an anti-corruption ombudsman like a Lokpal to judge or investigate the actions of MPs, like voting in Parliament, is not feasible, not the least because of the political resistance such a move will run into.
Similarly, bringing the higher judiciary under the purview of the Lokpal would not pass muster with the courts not keen on ceding any powers or authority and also bring constitutional issues into focus.
On the prime minister, government sources said the existing 2010 bill does cover the office with the exception of foreign affairs and national security. This had been done as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has no objections to his office being scrutinized by the anti-corruption watchdog. This is how far the government is ready to travel.
The political mood in government is settling in favour of pulling back some authority that has been ceded in the wake of a string of damning graft scandals beginning with Commonwealth Gamesrelated revelations in and then snowballing with the Adarsh society scandal and the 2G spectrum scam.
The government remains on slippery ground on corruption as it is not seen to have done enough to clean up its act despite arrests of several corporate bosses and senior politicians in the 2G scam. These arrests are seen to be the results of court pressure rather than actions initiated by the government.
Having been forced to accept the co-authorship of the Hazare group in drafting the Lokpal bill, the government has extended the mandate of the bill and there is an agreement on close to 30 of the 40 issues shortlisted for the law. But the Centre is not keen to be pushed beyond the red lines it has drawn by a group it continues to resent as being less representative than the political class.