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Kejriwal is ready with a draft Lokpal bill. But is it what he had promised?

Suhas Munshi | Updated on: 30 November 2015, 1:18 IST

On 14 February 2014, Arvind Kejriwal resigned his first term as Delhi's chief minister after just 49 days. The reason he gave was that the Congress, then his ally, and the BJP had stonewalled his attempts to table the Jan Lokpal Bill.

Kejriwal promised that if re-elected, he would put a strong anti-corruption ombudsman in place after consulting with the public.

Also Read: Big talk, little action: Is this Arvind Kejriwal's legacy as CM?

He returned to power exactly a year later, but for over eight months thereafter there was no news about the promised Lokpal Bill.

Now, people have learned, from media reports, that the AAP is bringing a new Jan Lokpal Bill. The government has not made its contents public yet, but copies of the draft have been leaked.

And what's contained in the leaked copies had drawn strong criticism from many people who were associated with the original Jan Lokpal movement.

Here's a lowdown on the draft bill, a copy of which is with Catch.

The Lokpal will be selected by the chief minister, speaker of the assembly, leader of opposition and a judge of the Delhi high court.

The ombudsman will serve for five years.

The Lokpal can be removed by the Lieutenant Governor if a two-thirds majority of the assembly so votes.

AAP's proposed Lokpal selection panel: CM, assembly speaker, leader of opposition, HC judge

False complaints made to the Lokpal can be punished with a year-long rigorous imprisonment and a fine of Rs 1 lakh.

If found guilty by the Lokpal, a government servant can be punished with rigorous imprisonment ranging from six months to 10 years. In the rarest of rare cases, the punishment can be extended to life imprisonment.

Special courts will deal with corruption cases under the Lokpal. They will have to complete trials within 6 months.

The Lokpal will have jurisdiction over every government servant in Delhi. This includes bureaucrats working directly for the state as well as those working for the Centre like officials of the Delhi Development Authority and the Delhi Police.

The bill makes it mandatory for government servants to declare their and their dependent family members' assets and liabilities by 31 January every year.

The Bill provides protection to whistle-blowers from any threat of physical harm or administrative harassment. It also protects their identities.

Also read - Arvind Kejriwal has no intention of getting Jan Lokpal Bill passed, it's just for publicity

But the draft bill is being panned however, including by Kejriwal's former comrades in the Lokpal movement Prashant Bhushan, Shanti Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav.

"You spoke about swaraj, public consultation. What happened to all that," former AAP member and Supreme Court lawyer Prashant Bhushan asked in a press conference.

He added that no activist or movement in India's history has played such a big fraud on people. "This will only ensure that the central government does not approve the bill and it never gets passed. Kejriwal never had the intention to form a strong Lokpal body," he added.

Critics' issues with AAP bill: it deters whistle-blowers; appointment, removal left to politicians

Here are the provisions of the draft bill that the critics have taken issue with.

Three of the four members of the selection panel are politicians. The Lokpal movement had proposed to limit political membership and give more representation to the civil society.

Also, the movement had proposed that the Lokpal would be removed only if the Supreme Court found him or her guilty. The new draft leaves the ombudsman's fate in the hands of the ruling class.

Originally, the Lokpal was envisaged to have an independent investigating agency, preferably the CBI, under it. There is no such provision in the new draft bill.

The critics argue that a year-long rigorous imprisonment for filing false cases would deter a lot of whistle-blowers from approaching the Lokpal.

By placing all government employees under Lokpal, even those working for the Centre, the AAP has again set itself up for a showdown with the Delhi LG and the Narendra Modi regime, almost ensuring that the bill is mired in legal hurdles.

Kejriwal has been trying to get the winter session of the assembly extended so that he has enough time to table the bill. But why hasn't he shared the draft with the public? What happened to his promise of consulting the public before tabling the bill.

Kejriwal, it appears, will have a lot of explaining to do when he tables the bill.

MORE AT CATCH - Delhi Cabinet passes Jan Lokpal; here are 5 things you need to know about the Bill

Why is Delhi's AAP govt delaying the appointment of a Lokayukta?

First published: 30 November 2015, 1:18 IST
 
Suhas Munshi @suhasmunshi

He hasn't been to journalism school, as evident by his refusal to end articles with 'ENDS' or 'EOM'. Principal correspondent at Catch, Suhas studied engineering and wrote code for a living before moving to writing mystery-shrouded-pall-of-gloom crime stories. On being accepted as an intern at Livemint in 2010, he etched PRESS onto his scooter. Some more bylines followed in Hindustan Times, Times of India and Mail Today.

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