Bill seeking to amend Lokpal and Lokyuktas Act introduced in Lok Sabha

A bill seeking to amend lokpalto include Leader of Congress party in Lok Sabha in a panel, which will select chairperson and members of the anti-corruption body, was introduced in Lok Sabha on Thursday.

The existing Act has the Leader of the Opposition in the panel but there is no LoP in the current House. The amendment will pave the way for Leader of Congress Mallikarjun Kharge to be its member.

The selection committee is led by the Prime Minister and consists of the Lok Sabha Speaker, the Chief Justice of India or a judge of the apex court nominated by him and an eminent jurist, who could be nominated by the President or any other member, besides the opposition leader.

Minister of State for Personnel Jitendra Singh introduced The Lokpal and Lokayuktas and Other Related Law (Amendment) Bill, 2014.

The bill also proposes that “no appointment of a Lokpal Chairperson, member or the eminent jurist will be invalid merely by reason of any vacancy of absence of a member in the selection committee.”

Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan had rejected Congress demands for LoP status to its leader. Congress with 44 seats in the 543-member Lok Sabha has emerged as the second largest party after BJP’s 282 but fell short of 10 per cent of the strength of House, a requirement to get LoP status.

The bill also provides for qualifications for appointment of Director of Prosecution in CBI and for its functional independence. The Director of Prosecution is appointed under the provisions of the Delhi Special Police Establishment (DSPE) Act, which governs working of the CBI.

There shall be a Directorate of Prosecution headed by a Director who shall be an officer not below the rank of Joint Secretary to the Government of India, for conducting prosecution of cases, according to the DSPE Act. The amendments also address other deficiencies in the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013.

They seek to harmonise the provisions of the current Act with the existing regulating Acts, rules and regulations in respect of declaration of assets and liabilities by various categories of public servants and establish appropriate mechanisms to obtain and publish such information received from public servants for the benefit of the public.

All Group A, B, and C employees are expected to file the declaration under the new rules.

There are around 22,95,374 employees in these three categories, as per the government’s latest data.

 

Courts will protect honest officers’ rights: SC

There is no reason to fear that the higher courts will not protect the rights of honest officers, the Supreme Court said on Thursday when the government insisted on retaining the power to approve graft probes against public servants.
The government claimed that its nod should precede corruption case investigations against officers of the rank of joint secretary and above to safeguard their interests.

The apex court bench of justice RM Lodha, justice Madan B Lokur and justice Kurian Joseph said, “The Supreme Court and high courts being the constitutional courts are the protector and guardians of the rights of the people, then why will they not protect the rights of the honest officer.”

The court said this in the course of the hearing of the government response on whether its prior sanction was an absolute must for investigations against bureaucrats and whether the power gets vested in the Central Vigilance Commission after giving it the power to supervise the CBI’s investigation.

The issue surfaced in the course of the hearing on public interest litigations seeking cancellation of coal blocks that were irregularly allocated.

The court made it clear that its hearing was not limited to any particular case but was only concerned with the “ambit and scope” of Section 6A of Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, a law that controls the legal powers of the CBI.

At the outset of the hearing, the court brushed aside a plea by petitioner advocate Manohar Lal Sharma seeking the investigation into the role of all the former coal ministers and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during the period when he was looking after the ministry.

The court was told that the CBI has already filed 13 first information reports and has just named those who were allocated coal blocks and neither the officials nor the ministers involved in the alleged wrongdoings.

The judges said the investigations were still in preliminary stages and it would not digress from the issue of examining the ambit and scope of Section 6A of DSPE Act, which they were hearing Thursday.

Under Section 6A of the act, it is mandatory for the CBI to seek prior sanction of the government for investigating an officer of the joint secretary rank or above for alleged offences under the Prevention of Corruption Act.

Attorney General GE Vahanvati told the court that the court directed or court monitored investigation by the CBI did not stand on a different footing from normal investigation when it came to following the procedure of seeking advance permission of the government.

The government asserted that the apex court could not “waive off or negate” the express statutory provision as Section 6A of the DSPE Act was in the nature of “procedure established by law”.

Vahanvati told the court that it (court) could not say by way of clarification that prior approval of the government was not required as the powers of supervision of investigation by the CBI have been shifted to the Central Vigilance Commission.

He told the court that as and when the investigating agency would approach the government for sanction under Section 6A of the DPSE Act, the government would pass a reasoned order.

In the event of the government rejecting the investigating agency’s request for sanction, the issue could be brought before the court to determine its correctness, the attorney general told the court.

“The view why sanction has been denied will be before the court. Both points of view (that of the government and the CBI) will be there for the court to consider. The decision of the government will not be final. The view of the court will be final,” the attorney general told the court.

“When the court is balancing the interest, then the government should have the right to decide on sanction and same can be done in four weeks,” Vahanvati told the court.

(Source: IANS)

CBI to be more powerful, govt enacting law

Taking a step forward in its fight against corruption, the Centre is considering a recommendation to give more powers to CBI by enacting a law which will empower it to probe graft cases nationwide without the consent of the state governments.

 If it comes into being, the proposed law will give statutory powers to the investigation agency specifically to look into corruption cases and prosecute offenders all over the country, highly placed official sources said.

 As per the proposal, which is at a nascent stage, the law will be enacted close on the lines of the National Investigation Agency Act, 2008.

Sources said the Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions will soon hold a meeting with Ministry of Law and Justice and certain officials of the CBI to devise a road map for the legislation.

 “The government is considering a proposal for giving statutory powers to CBI. Its main thrust is to minimize overlapping powers of state and central government investigating agencies,” a senior Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) official said.

 However, the official said “no decision” has been taken by the Ministry on it as yet.

 At present, the Central Bureau of Investigation functions under the Delhi Special Police Establishment (DSPE) Act. As per the Act, CBI requires consent from the state governments to probe and prosecute an official working under their control.

 The proposal was also discussed by a Parliamentary Standing Committee which had in May this year recommended a legislation giving statutory powers to CBI for the purpose terming it as a “dire need”.