CHURUMURI POLL: Should PM be under Lok Pal?

The hurried efforts to draft a Lok Pal bill, propelled by Anna Hazare‘s fast unto death in the wake of a slew of corruption scandals, has run into seriously rough weather, with civil society members at odds with representatives of the government on a very fundamental issue: just who should (or shouldn’t) come under the Lok Pal’s purview?

Should members of the higher judiciary be left out? Can members of Parliament be excused? Officers below the level of joint secretary? Should various anti-corruption bodies like CBI and CVC all come under the Lok Pal? Will such a Lok Pal with overwhelming powers over the executive, judiciary and legislature be such a good thing for a democracy? Etc.

The key emblematic issue, however, concerns the prime minister of India: should he or she come under the purview of the Lok Pal?

Home minister P. Chidambaram says the civil society members are themselves not in agreement on some of these issues. His HRD counterpart Kapil Sibal says whatever is done has to be in consonance with the Constitution of India. And Chidambaram has now written to the State governments and the MPs on the contentious issues.

All of which is shorthand for just one thing: there is desperate backpedalling going on after the attempt to stymie the panel through insinuations failed. After all, if the government’s own draft (according to the RTI activist Arvind Kejriwal) included the prime minister in it, why is the PM now being sought to be kept out of the Lok Pal’s loop?

Question: Should the PM come under the Lok Pal’s ambit? Or will his august office be sullied by frivolous charges, as is the fear?

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