Jaitley favours conditional inclusion of PM in Lokpal bill

July 5th, 2011 - 12:36 am ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata Party New Delhi, July 4 (IANS) Favouring conditional inclusion of the prime minister within the Lokpal’s ambit, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Arun Jaitley Monday criticised the ministerial draft of the anti-corruption legislation and said the selection criterion was “government dominated” and appointment criteria “vague”.

In an article on the party website, a day after the all-party meeting on the bill, Jaitley also favoured creation of a National Judicial Commission for judicial accountability.

Jaitley, leader of opposition in the Rajya Sabha, said that preliminary analysis of the ministerial draft reveals that committee for selection of Lokpal is not necessarily confined to those capable of adjudicating on the basis of legal evidence.

“Former politicians can also be appointed. The power of initiating removal is with the government and the power of suspending an inconvenient Lokpal is also with the government,” he said.

He said that the ministerial draft provides immunity to the prime minister from jurisdiction of the Lokpal, adding that laws granting prime minister immunity have been frowned upon.

Ordinarily if the prime minister commits an offence, the accountability standards for them must be higher than ordinary humans, he contended.

“The principle of Caesar’s wife being beyond suspicion requires a more stringent standard for a prime minister. A prime minister in larger public interest may need protection only in relation to national security or public order issues. These areas affect India’s sovereignty and security,” he said, adding that if a prime minister were to receive kick-backs on commercial transactions or subvert a vote of confidence through bribery, he should not be immune from the penal law.

“It is for this reason that both Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Dr. Manmohan Singh have repeatedly said that they have no objection on being covered by the Lokpal,” he said, adding a clause 10 of the Lokpal Bill of 2001, when the NationaL Democratic Alliance (NDA) was in power, granted only limited immunity to the prime minister in matters connected to these issues.

On the other contentious issue in the Lokpal bill debate about inclusion of judiciary, Jaitley said current practice of in-house corrective mechanism has demonstrated its inherent limitations.

“The premise on which the judicial institution functions is that it would be free from any collateral considerations. Regrettably, with many aberrations, this presumption does not exist today. The presumption of absolute impartiality has ceased to exist,” he said.

Jaitley said while Law Minister M. Veerapa Moily had suggested that law relating to judicial standards and accountability be strengthened, there was also a suggestion that appointment and disciplinary matters relating to judiciary should go to a National Judicial Commission.

Noting the NDA government had introduced 98th Constitution amendment in 2003 which provided for such a commission for judicial appointments, he said it was now time to create it to serve as “both an appointment and integrity institution in relation to the judges”.

Referring to the process of appointment and removal mechanism for Lokpal, Jaitley said cabinet secretary and the president of the National Academy of Sciences have been added as members to give numerical edge to the government.

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