A tough challenge awaits the Aam Aadmi Party if it has to keep Arvind Kejriwal’s promise of bringing in a Jan Lokpal bill within 15 days of forming the government in Delhi.
Amending the existing Lokayukta Act would have involved getting the Lt Governor’s assent and getting the amendment bill passed in the assembly, where getting the numbers would have been uncertain in itself. The party has, however, made it clear it wants the Act repealed, with the replacement modelled on the Jan Lokpal draft prepared by India Against Corruption rather than on the Lokpal and Lokayukta Bill passed recently in Parliament.
Repeal is fraught with several tougher challenges than amending the Delhi Act would have been. Under the procedure for the Delhi assembly, the repeal of an existing Act requires the assent of the union ministries of law and home, and the AAP has stated it will target corruption in the Congress. It is only after the two ministries have given permission, and the President his assent, that the new bill can be introduced in the assembly, where the AAP has only 28 of 70 members.
AAP leader Prashant Bhushan, an advocate, said the party would certainly repeal the existing Act and the new bill would be “substantially similar to the Janlokpal bill” of IAC. Should the Centre fail to give its consent to the proposed law, he said, “there will be a lot of noise and protest”.
The AAP has approached several experts, including former Delhi Lokayukta Manmohan Sarin, for suggestions on the bill it proposes. “We will finalise the draft in a couple of days,” said Somnath Bharti, MLA and member of the AAP legal cell.
Draft vs Bill vs Act
A key difference between the original Jan Lokpal draft and the Lokpal Bill is that the former proposes to give the ombudsman wider powers of investigation, besides the powers of conducting trials and imposing penalties. In terms of powers given, the Delhi Lokayukta Act is the most limited of the three.
CRIME & PUNISHMENT: The Jan Lokpal draft seeks to empower the Lokpal to approve interception and monitoring of data and phone conversations. Lokpal investigating officers would have the authority to investigate offences under the Prevention of Corruption Act with all the powers vested in a police officer under the CrPC. The draft also seeks to give the Lokpal bench the power to conclude an inquiry and determine the penalty