The Telegraph
Saturday , February 1 , 2014
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Jan Lokpal hitch for CM

New Delhi, Jan. 31: If the Centre’s Lokpal bill is unable to kill a mouse, as Arvind Kejriwal has suggested, his own Jan Lokpal Bill is struggling to bell the cat.

The Delhi government has for the second time deferred cabinet clearance for its signature legislation following its own law department’s call to have it vetted by the Centre before it is placed in the Assembly.

The government wants it tabled first and then vetted. The bill was first deferred on Monday. “It has to be a well-thought-out legislation, after all,” minister Manish Sisodia explained.

Sources said the law department wanted the bill vetted because it had several differences with the Centre’s bill, passed by Parliament in December and, according to Kejriwal, not good enough to “even kill a mouse, let alone end corruption”.

The state government has called a February 13-16 session of the Assembly to pass the bill but did another U-turn today, saying the session would not be held at the Ramlila Maidan as promised.

It will be held in the Assembly the first three days, with only the last day’s sitting shifting to the Indira Gandhi Indoor stadium, where crowd regulation would be easier.

The state bill’s biggest departure from the Centre’s is that it treats all public servants, from chief minister to Class D employee, on a par.

The Union bill gives Prime Ministers a limited immunity from probes. Approval is needed from two-thirds of Lokpal members to start an inquiry against the PM. The Jan Lokpal grants the chief minister no such favours.

If 10 years is the maximum punishment in the union bill, it’s a life term in the Delhi bill. The five-member selection committee for Lokpal members has three politicians; the Delhi committee of seven will have just two politicians.

Power shock

Delhi’s power regulator today raised tariffs by 6 to 8 per cent in a setback to Kejriwal, one of whose first announcements was to halve the power bills of those consuming less than 400 units a month.

The hike is a routine, carried out every quarter. Because of the fluctuating gas and coal bills, the power firms can foist an extra surcharge on consumers at a rate fixed by the regulator. Today’s hike is based on the power firms’ expenditures in October-December — Kejriwal took over only on December 28.

“We are taken aback by this sudden decision, which is beyond any reasonable understanding,” a government release said, adding the regulator should have waited for the CAG report on the private power distributors’ accounts.