Jan Lokpal Bill tabled in Delhi Assembly
Nine months after storming to power, the AAP government on Monday introduced the Delhi Janlokpal Bill in the Assembly, which provides for an ombudsman with powers to act against any government functionary, including those of the Centre, in the national Capital through its own investigation wing.
Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia, who tabled the Bill, termed it as the most “effective and independent” in India’s history and said the proposed legislation brings under its ambit every act of corruption occurring within the boundaries of the National Capital Territory of Delhi.
AAP leaders said the Jan Lokpal will have powers to even probe acts of corruption against DDA, MCDs and Delhi Police officials, which may trigger another round of confrontation between the Kejriwal government and the Centre.
The bill will give strong teeth to the anti-corruption watchdog to ensure that all employees of the Delhi government, the DDA , the Municipal bodies and the Delhi Police shall within three months after the commencement of this Act and thereafter by 31 January of every year submit to his detail assets. If such statement is not submitted by the public servant by January 31 of that year, his payment and salary shall be stopped by the public authority with immediate effect till the statement is filed.
Sisodia assured people that the bill is similar to the one that came up during the 2011 Anna movement, rejecting allegations of it being “completely different”. A four-member selection committee, chaired by the Delhi high court Chief Justice, will select the three-member Lokpal, he said. The other members of the Committee will be the Chief Minister, Speaker of the state Assembly and the Leader of the Opposition. Janlokpal may recommend transfer or suspension of public servant connected with the allegation of corruption.
“This bill proposes harsh punishment for proved charges of corruption including rigorous imprisonment ranging between six months and 10 years and in rarest of rare cases up to life imprisonment and fine,” said Sisodia in the House.
The Bill proposes to provide full protection to whistleblowers from physical harm and administrative harassment. For this, the Janlokpal may issue orders and directions to the government or any other authority to provide security and protection to whistle blowers. After being tabled in the House, the government will have the bill for debate. If the bill passes the majority test on the floor, then it would be sent for the Centre’s approval.
Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal made his first appearance in the ongoing session of the House on Monday, while BJP legislators were not present during the introduction of the Bill. Leader of the Opposition Vijender Gupta, who was earlier marshalled out of the House, did not return despite requests by Manish Sisodia.
Under the Bill, the Lokpal can be removed only through a process of impeachment and it will require at least two-thirds majority in the Legislative Assembly. AAP has 67 MLAs in the 70-member Delhi Legislative Assembly.
Meanwhile, the appointment and removal process has come under criticism from former AAP leaders Prashant Bhushan, Yogendra Yadav and BJP who have accused Kejriwal of playing the “biggest fraud” by diluting the provisions that were envisaged originally.