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PM above Caesar and wife

New Delhi, Feb. 12: Parties leaving a ruling coalition midway would have to seek a fresh mandate, poll candidates charged with serious offences will be disqualified, and a corruption ombudsman will watch over ministers except the Prime Minister if a government panel has its way.

The second Administrative Reforms Commission today recommended a raft of measures on the running of elections and the conduct of lawmakers, government officials and judges, with the focus on blocking their escape through legal loopholes.

“The standard should be one of not only the conduct of Caesar’s wife but of Caesar himself,” said the report on ethics in governance.

But the panel has said the Prime Minister should be kept out of the jurisdiction of the proposed ombudsman — the Rashtriya Lokayukta — which can look into the actions of Union ministers, chief ministers, MPs and top bureaucrats.

The six-member commission is headed by Veerappa Moily, the Congress leader who also chaired a panel on quotas in higher education.

The recommendation comes at a time the Lok Pal bill has been referred to a group of ministers, and Manmohan Singh has said he is ready to open the Prime Minister’s post to Lok Pal scrutiny.

But the panel says: “If the Prime Minister’s conduct is open to formal scrutiny by extra-parliamentary authorities, the government’s viability is eroded and Parliament’s supremacy is in jeopardy.”

The ministry of personnel will look into the recommendations. Without a political consensus — the BJP has started expressing misgivings — many recommendations will be difficult to implement.

On redrawing of ruling coalitions, the Moily commission said parties often receive votes as members of an alliance. If they change partners, fresh polls should be called.

The commission said candidates facing “grave criminal charges framed by a trial court” should be barred. It listed charges such as “murder, abduction, rape and dacoity unrelated to political agitation”. Current laws bar only candidates convicted and sentenced to two years or more.

The panel also wants to waive the need for sanction to prosecute a judge or public official if he has been caught taking a bribe or possesses unaccounted wealth.

The panel tries its hand at solving the offices of profit row. It wants to redefine these offices to include only bodies involved in executive decision-making and in control of public funds, leaving out those advising on policy.

Such a definition would keep out the National Advisory Council, whose membership had sucked Sonia Gandhi into the controversy last year.

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