New vs old, activists slightly tweak Jan Lokpal Bill

April 16th, 2011 - 11:18 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, April 16 (IANS) As the civil society Saturday brought out a new version of the Jan Lokpal Bill, the major changes were also made in the composition of the Lokpal selection panel, lending it higher political involvement - of the prime minister and the leader of opposition in the Lok Sabha.

This version of the bill, termed “version 2.2″ by the activists is slightly different from the previous version “2.1″, criticised for being too tough.

The major points of the change are:

1. There is a higher ‘political’ involvement in process of choosing the Lokpal in the new version. It suggests, as members of the committee, the prime minister, the leader of opposition in the Lok Sabha, two youngest judges of the Supreme Court, two youngest chief justices of high courts, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG), and the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC).

The earlier version had named the vice president, the Lok Sabha speaker, two senior-most judges of the Supreme Court, two senior-most chief justices of high courts, retired army personnel who are five-star generals, the chairperson of National Human Rights Commission, along with the CAG and the CEC.

This was one of the most criticised clauses.

2. The selection process which was to be through an open advertisements in prescribed format, has been replaced by a search committee which will be composed of five members, selected from former CAGs, and CECs. The search committee will invite recommendations from such class of people or such individuals as it deems fit. It will recommend to the prime minister the names three times the number of vacancies that exist.

The earlier draft said recommendations shall be invited through open advertisements. The list of candidates along with their recommendations would them be displayed on the website and the shortlisting was to be done by the committee itself.

3. The earlier clause of minimum 10 years of punishment for officer of rank of joint secretary or above, and ministers has been dropped and the new version only says “punishment will be more severe if the accused is higher in rank”.

The earlier version said: “Provided that if the accused is an officer of the rank of Joint Secretary or above or a Minister, a member or Chairperson of the Lokpal, the punishment shall not be less than ten years of imprisonment”.

In addition to this, instead of two years of rigorous imprisonment extending up to life imprisonment, the minimum punishment is now one year.

4. For qualification for Lokpal, the clause for the person to be a citizen of India has been added to earlier existing clauses of being a person who was never charge-sheeted for any offence, never penalised and was less than 40 years old.

Major features of the Lokpal, as defined by the activists. however, remain same. The Lokpal will still get the complaints directly from people, will be empowered to take suo-motu actions, and will have the powers of police.

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