Focus on Catching Big Fish First: Nikhil Dey to Lokpal

New Delhi
Focus on Catching Big Fish First: Nikhil Dey to Lokpal
Civil society members of Lokpal Bill drafting committee today came face to face with eminent persons who criticized "over loading" the body with too many powers and suggested that it should be constituted with a focus to catch the "big fish".

The likes of Chief Information Commissioner Satyanand Mishra, outspoken retire Judge A P Shah, social activists Nikhil Dey and Usha Ramanathan debated the issue of Lokpal with drafting committee members Prashant Bhushan and Arvind Kejriwal and former IPS officer Kiran Bedi.

Mishra, Dey, Ramanathan and RTI activist Shekhar Singh said there was no second opinion that corruption should be eradicated, but did not agree entirely with the current form of Lokpal Bill which the civil society members want it to cover from a "peon to the Prime Minister".

"Catch the big fish first...Let it concentrate on higher positions...Concentrate on the biggest fish," Dey said.

Mishra wanted to know from where the Lokpal would recruit 15,000 people "with impeccable integrity" for its functioning and suggested that this was inviable. His suggestion was that existing institutions can be strengthened.

However, Kejriwal and Bhushan strongly disagreed with them and said there should be a single body that would cover all government employees, MPs, Ministers and even the Prime Minister.

Justice Shah said the Prime Minister's office should be brought under the purview of the Lokpal with a "few safeguards as he is the face of the country", but warned against including higher judiciary. There was near unanimity among the panel members on the two issues.

Bringing judiciary is not the "right approach" and if Lokpal can supersede the Supreme Court then the "last credible institution in the country will be destroyed", he said.

Bhushan said the CBI, CVC, Vigilance Department and the judiciary have been "dysfunctional" because of the "corrupt attitude" of the government which chooses people to head these institutions.

However, Shah disagreed with Bhushan's comments and said there have been instances of judiciary making impact in many cases like the 2G spectrum and the appointment of CVC.

"Prashant, I don't agree with you...Whatever success you have achieved in 2G spectrum and the CVC case is because of the Supreme Court and the judiciary," he said.

Former BSF Director-General Prakash Singh asked the Lokpal civil society members and Ramdev to be "together", otherwise the "government will sort you out".

He also condemned the police action against Baba Ramdev's protest and said if police reforms had been carried out, such things would not have happened.

"Police reforms have to be carried out. That is most important. Once police are given the powers and they are independent, there is no need for a special law for corruption," he said.

The eminent personalities also asked the civil society members of the panel not to "rush through the Bill".

"Let us not draft a Bill that is affecting the basic characteristics of the Constitution. A Lokpal cannot lift us out of corruption...Institution building should be there," he said.

The speakers wanted existing institutions to be strengthened.

To a question, Bhushan said judiciary could be excluded from Lok Pal but the government should pass the Judicial Accountability Bill soon.
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