Punishment for top corrupt officials on Lok Pal agenda

Civil society activists Anna Hazare and Arvind Kejriwal after a meeting on Lokpal Bill in New Delhi. (File Photo)
New Delhi, May 29 (PTI): Civil society members are expected to make a strong pitch for graver punishment, including life imprisonment for high ranking officials in cases of corruption, when the joint committee to draft the Lokpal Bill meets in New Delhi on Monday. They will also demand that a corrupt government official serve a minimum of one year rigorous imprisonment and a maximum punishment of life imprisonment.  “Punishment shall be higher if the status or rank of the accused is higher,” reads a recommendation of the civil society members led by Anna Hazare.
These issues were discussed by the joint drafting committee on Lokpal Bill chaired by Pranab Mukherjee during a meeting last week. Mr. Hazare’s team also wants to bring within the purview of the Lokpal, conduct of MPs inside Parliament, if it is an offence under the Prevention of Corruption Act. A proposal to this effect was made during the meeting of the joint drafting committee on May 23. Mr. Hazare’s team and the government had agreed in principle on a provision to attach the properties of corrupt government officials on completion of investigation of charges against them. They also agreed on recovering the losses caused by the corrupt officials by auctioning the properties acquired by using ‘ill gotten’ wealth.
However, there were differences on when to issue the notification on the list of assets of an official. The proposal states that the assets cannot be transferred after issuance of the notification. Meanwhile, the civil society members appear to have raised the pitch for early enactment of the Lokpal Act, saying Mr. Hazare would return to Jantar Mantar on August 16 if the Bill is not passed by Parliament. The setting up of the joint drafting committee was a key demand of Mr. Hazare and his supporters as part of their agitation for strong measures to tackle corruption in government and public life.
The Committee was constituted through a government notification on April 9 after Mr. Hazare ended his 97—hour fast on the issue.
The Committee is chaired by Mr. Mukherjee and has Union ministers Kapil Sibal, Veerappa Moily, Salman Khurshid and P. Chidambaram as members. Besides Mr. Hazare, the civil society members are Karnataka Lokayukta Santosh Hegde, advocate Prashant Bhushan, former Law Minister Shanti Bhushan, and RTI activist Arvind Kejriwal. Mr. Hazare’s team has voiced concern over the slow progress of the bill drafting process following which it was agreed to hold meetings more frequently.