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Cabinet clears Lokpal scanner on PM

New Delhi, June 28: For the first time ever, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), including the Prime Minister, is set to come under scrutiny.

The Cabinet tonight approved the Lokpal bill that will look into complaints of corruption in high places, rejecting a suggestion that the Prime Minister be kept outside its purview.

All ministers of the Union government, including those of Cabinet rank, legislators and bureaucrats will also come within the ambit of the bill.

Announcing the Cabinet’s decision, parliamentary affairs minister Sushma Swaraj said the Lokpal Bill, 2001 — already introduced in the Lok Sabha —would sail through Parliament in the monsoon session with the changes incorporated.

A suggestion of the National Commission to Review Working of the Constitution that the PMO and the Prime Minister be “not included” in the Lokpal bill was rejected by the parliamentary standing committee on the matter and the group of ministers headed by deputy Prime Minister .K. Advani, Swaraj said.

The minister said the bill would be passed as a “simple legislation” that does not warrant any constitutional amendment. “There would be no need to bring in a constitutional amendment as the bill is not envisaged to be incorporated as a constitutional mandate. Like any other bill, this too would be passed by a simple majority.” Swaraj said the Cabinet also accepted Advani’s suggestion that the bill be passed in the monsoon session.

The bill was introduced for the fourth time on December 31, 2001, and sent to the parliamentary standing committee for comment and suggestions. This committee suggested that the PMO and the Prime Minister should come under the scrutiny of the proposed Lokpal, Swaraj said.

During V.P. Singh’s tenure as Prime Minister in 1989, the bill was introduced with fanfare but could not be passed. It was again introduced in 1996 and 1998, but could not be passed.

“This time, it would succeed,” Swaraj said. “All the recommendations of the standing committee have been accepted by the Cabinet.”

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