Team Anna on Thursday pressed for as many as 34 fresh additions to the proposed Lokpal bill that have already been incorporated in the Uttarakhand Lokayukata bill and renewed their demand that constitutional amendments bringing violation of citizens' charter and conduct of MPs in Parliament within the purview of the Lokpal also be introduced.
The additions include widening the definition of corruption to include individuals who have given or taken benefit willfully from a public servant and a reward scheme to encourage whistleblowers. Victimization of a whistleblower will also be seen as an act of corruption according to the new provisions incorporated by Team Anna. These provisions have been made part of the Uttarakhand bill that received the gubernatorial nod.
Team Anna members met the standing committee on law and justice for the penultimate time on Thursday. With the government veering towards establishing Lokpal as a constitutional authority, the civil society activists have revived their demand on three constitutional amendments - Section 105, proviso 226 and 311. This will allow Lokpal to act against MPs, take cognizance of violation of citizens' charter and also mandate that if any High Court stays the order of the Lokpal, then the case must be heard within two months.
"We had a very good and positive meeting with the standing committee in which we explained the amendments we are seeking in the government's Lokpal bill which are in order to bring the government's bill in line with the Jan Lokpal bill and Uttarakhand's Lokayukta Bill that was passed yesterday," Prashant Bhushan said.
Sources said Team Anna repeatedly invoked the Uttarakhand Bill, which saw the standing committee chairman Abhishek Singhvi at one point caustically remark, "The perception was that Uttarakhand Bill is modeled on Jan Lokpal bill, but your repeated references have reversed that notion."
Activists demanded that the definition of corruption be widened to include victimization of whistleblower and any undue benefit given or taken by a public official. A public official will be seen as corrupt if s/he willfully takes up paid employment or consultancy with a firm with whom the individual has had public dealings. Another addition is the provision of an appropriate reward scheme to encourage complaints that could include 10% of the value of the loss recovered or prevented.
The suggestions include empowering the Lokpal to take suo moto cognizance of an act of corruption and advising the public authority in case it detects a trend of corruption.
Speaking after an over three-hour meeting, Singhvi said, "We started with Team Anna and in less than five weeks the committee has moved forward to all sections of society. It was only fitting that we had six hours of presentation and discussion between today and tomorrow."
Team Anna member Kiran Bedi said that the group had underlined the importance of strengthening the Uttarakhand bill. "The Lokayukta bill has set a benchmark and we requested the standing committee that they should not dilute the law," she said.
Members, including Bedi, Arvind Kejriwal, Prashant and Shanti Bhushan, were part of Thursday's meeting. Activist Anna Hazare is slated to attend Friday's meeting, which is expected to be the final one before the committee finalizes its recommendations.
Referring to the recent statement of Union law minister Salman Khurshid to make Lokpal into a constitutional body, Kejriwal said while they "welcome" such a move, the amendment should be so drafted that there is no need for the states to ratify it or it will become an issue of delay. "We hope a two-thirds majority will pass it in Parliament as there is a broad consensus for the bill."
Former Chief Justice of India Justice J S Verma had recently said that such an amendment was possible.
Among the major amendments mooted by Team Anna on the lines of its Jan Lokpal Bill are bringing the office of the Prime Minister and the judiciary under the ambit of the proposed Lokpal, power to tap phones without the authorization of the Union home secretary and merging the CBI with the ombudsman.
Seeking to enhance the jurisdiction of Lokpal, Team Anna said government bill's position that the PM could be investigated only after he demits office violates the Constitution as he does not enjoy any such immunity.