Whistleblowers to be protected
opposition, expelled AAP members say bill will never become a law, selection and expulsion of Lokpal will turn political
Swaraj Abhiyan volunteers protest against Delhi Janlokpal Bill 2015 on Monday
Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) on Monday tabled the anti-corruption legislation, the Jan Lokpal Bill, in the Delhi assembly. One of its prominent poll promise, the AAP emphasized the bill is similar to the original version of the bill of 2011.”I am proud to present the strong anti-corruption bill in the Delhi assembly, which people of this country had demanded” said deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia, as he read out the provisions of the bill, amidst jubilant AAP members who shouted slogans and continued to thump their desks to express support for the bill. <!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Offering defenses to allegations made by expelled AAP founder members Prashant Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav, Sisodia said the bill aims at an anti-corruption ombudsman and that a prominent feature of the bill will be to punish the corrupt with a maximum sentence of a life term and a fine that will be five times the losses incurred by the Delhi government.“The biggest strength of the bill is that both investigations and prosecutions will be carried out in a time-bound manner,”Sisodia said, adding that the Lokpal will have a separate investigation and prosecution wings. The investigations will have to be carried out within six months and only for special cases will the time period be extended to a year.“There will be strong punishment for people occupying higher positions in the government if found to be corrupt,”Sisodia said.He said the Lokpal will also have the powers to protect whistleblowers by providing security to ensure a safety to their lives and other administrative retaliation. “Their identity will also be kept a secret,”he said. Talking about the selection process of the Lokpal, Sisodia said a four member committee, headed by Delhi high court chief justice, the chief minister of Delhi, the leader of opposition and the speaker of Delhi assembly –a major bone of contention between the Delhi government and the opposition, with the latter claiming that the committee has been made increasingly political.While the draft bill of 2015 states that no prosecution or legal proceedings can be initiated against the Jan Lokpal or against any staff member of the Jan Lokpal office, putting it above law, Sisodia said the process of impeachment will be applied for removal for removal of any member of the Lokpal.Sisodia was accompanied by Kejriwal while he tabled the bill, while none of the three BJP legislators were present in the house.While one of them, OP Sharma was recently suspended for the session for his alleged derogatory remarks against AAP MLA Alka Lamba, BJP MLA Vijender Gupta, who is leader of opposition in Delhi Assembly, was today marshalled out of the House. BJP member Jagdish Pradhan also walked out of the House following Gupta’s eviction. Talking to dna, Gupta said many important sections of the original 2011 bill stands diluted in the current bill. “The selection process has been made political. Moreover, it is anti-whistleblower. If they imposing a Rs1 lakh fine or jail to the whistleblower for false information, no one would dare to come ahead with the complaint,”he said. Bhushan, on the other hand, said unlike the previous version of the Lokpal bill said all central government officers and state officers can be investigated, the latest draft says the Lokpal will have powers to inquire against all government officers and elected representatives, including ministers.“This means the Centre will not allow the passage of the Bill, and it can not become an act,”he said.According to them, in the 2011 bill, a Lokpal could be removed only after being found guilty of wrongdoing by courts and a presidential clearance. In the new version, two-thirds of the Delhi assembly can vote to remove the Lokpal, which makes it weak and dependent on politicians.However, a government official said even the 2011 Lokpal bill had the provision to probe central government officials and ministers. “Why didn’t Bhushan and Yadav oppose that provision at that time?” the official asked.The Bill has to be cleared by the Lieutenant Governor and the Centre before it becomes a law.