New Delhi: Stepping up the attack on ruling AAP over the 2015 Delhi Janlokpal Bill, ousted party leader Prashant Bhushan on Sunday said that “contrary to the claims” made by the Arvind Kejriwal government, the proposed legislation is “completely” different from its previous 2014 version.
The senior Supreme Court lawyer claimed that the 2015 Bill increases the say of the government in the appointment and removal of the ombudsman and brings under its ambit Union government functionaries, among other “glaring” differences.
Prashant Bhushan. PTI
In the wake of the claims by the Swaraj Abhiyan leader, AAP hit out at Bhushan and alleged that his attack goes on to prove the “collaboration” between him and BJP.
But Bhushan, who was expelled from AAP for “anti-party activities”, lashed out at the claim while likening Kejriwal to Joseph Goebbels, the propaganda minister under the infamous Hitler regime.
Bhushan also dared the Delhi chief minister to an open debate on the matter. The Delhi government will table the Bill on Monday.
Releasing a comparative study of the several Lokpal Bills and Acts, including the Delhi Janlokpal Bill 2014, Uttarakhand Lokayukta Bill, Centre’s Lokpal Act and Team Anna‘s Janlokpal draft, Bhushan said the Bill cleared by the current Delhi Cabinet was the “worst” of all.
“What do they (AAP) think? Is this why they have increased publicity budget to over Rs 500 crore? They should think of having a ministry of propaganda. It’s as if they have been trained by Joseph Goebbels. The new Bill is completely different from the one tabled in 2014,” charged Bhushan.
The Delhi government has not officially released copies of either version of the Bill. Rebel AAP MLA Pankaj Pushkar had yesterday made the 2015 Bill public, which he claimed to have got in his capacity as a member of the Delhi Assembly’s Business Advisory Committee.
Meanwhile, functionaries in the AAP government, when contacted, refused to comment on the charges made by Bhushan at a press conference at his Noida residence.
Significantly, the 2015 Bill gives powers to the anti-graft ombdusman to inquire into and investigate allegations of corruption occurring anywhere in the “National Capital Territory of Delhi”, thus bringing Union government functionaries under its ambit.
The 2014 Bill, released by Bhushan, on the other hand, said that the Lokpal can investigate any matter either suo-motu or based on a complaint in respect of public servants.
It described public servant as someone who is serving in the connection with the affairs of the Delhi government and any such person whose services are “temporarily placed at the disposal of the Central government, the government of another state, the local authority or any other body.”
The 2014 Bill had also proposed to have under its ambit the Delhi Police, the DDA and four civic bodies as part of the public authority category. But the current Bill is more categorical in its phrasing, leaving no ambiguity as to its proposed purview, Bhushan said.
Nowhere in the 2015 Bill is there an explicit mention as to whether the Chief Minister, other Ministers shall be under its purview unlike the earlier proposed legislation.
Kejriwal had ended his first term as Delhi Chief Minister in February 2014 within 49 days of assuming office over his inability to pass that Bill.
Reacting to Bhushan’s allegations, AAP spokesperson Ashutosh questioned as to why Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav, another expelled AAP leader, did not protest against Prime Minister Narendra Modi for not appointing Lokpal at the Centre.
“AAP brings LOKPAL PB,YY,SB decide to stage a protest? Why? Double standard? Do you need more proof of collaboration between them-BJP. Modi has not appointed LOKPAL for last 18 months but Prashant, Yogendra, Shanti did not have time to criticise/protest till date. Why?” Ashutosh tweeted.
Bhushan, flanked by his father, former Union Law Minister Shanti Bhushan, said AAP government has deliberately included the provision for initiating proceedings against Union Ministers and officials to stoke confrontation.
“I have nothing against the provision in principle. But the point is that it has been incorporated to play victim later as it is quite obvious that it won’t get the Centre’s approval.
“In the Jan Lokpal Bill 2.3, the final version of what the Team Anna produced, it was explicitly said that Central Lokpal will cover Union government whereas the state lokayuktas will have under their ambit state government functionaries, among others,” he said.
The government, after clearing the Bill, had repeatedly assured that it was similar to the one drafted by Team Anna and the one tabled in 2014.
In the 2014 Delhi Janlokpal Bill, the appointment of a seven-member Lokpal body was to be done by a ‘Selection Committee’ chaired by the Chief Minister and consisting of Leader of Opposition, two judges of the High Court and one previous chairperson of the Janlokpal, said Bhushan.
There was also a provision for a ‘Search Committee’ which would shortlist the candidates for appointment as Chairperson or members of the Janlokpal which, he added, is absent in the new Bill.
The 2015 Jan Lokpal Bill envisages a three-member body to be appointed by a committee under the chairmanship of Chief Justice of High Court, the Chief Minister, Leader of Opposition in the Delhi Legislative Assembly and the Speaker.
More importantly, the removal clause has been changed completely with the onus now on the Legislature rather than the Judiciary. The removal of the Lokpal or its members can be effected by an order of the Lieutenant Governor passed with a two-thirds majority in the Legislative Assembly.
It is to be noted that AAP has 67 MLAs in the Delhi Legislative Assembly.
The 2014 Bill said that the chairperson or any other member of the Janlokpal shall only be removed by the President on recommendation from the High Court after an inquiry on a complaint against the official concerned.
Among other provisions of the previous Act, Bhushan said it had mentioned that the Janlokpal shall have its own investigating wing. The present Bill does not specify any such clause, he claimed.
The new version also rules out review of any of its orders, proceedings, decisions or reports by any court or tribunal. The earlier Bill said any orders passed by the Lokpal “shall be subject to the writ jurisdiction of the High Court”.
Bhushan senior, who had yesterday demanded Kejriwal’s resignation, wondered whether “Goebbels had taken rebirth in Delhi in the form of Kejriwal”.
“Stop this nonsense, stop deceiving the people of Delhi everyday,” he said.