Conflict of Interest in Singhvi headed Parliamentary Committee Eaxamining Lokpal Bill
Shri Hamid Ansari,
Hon’ble Chairman, Rajya Sabha
Parliament of India
Subject: Conflict of Interest in the Parliamentary Committee Examining anti-corruption (Lokpal) Bill, 2011, The Judicial Standard and Accountability Bill, 2010 and The Public Interest Disclosure and Protection to Persons Making the Disclosures Bill, 2010
With reference to the public announcement inviting suggestions on the anti-corruption Lokpal Bill, 2011 by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice, I wish to highlight certain facts that show a clear conflict of interest among some Hon'ble members of this Committee and the sensitive Bill. These members include Dr Abhishek Manu Singhvi , Shri Lalu Prasad, Shri Amar Singh, Shri Manish Tewari and Shri Parimal Nathwani.
I submit that Dr. Abhishek Manu Singhvi was nominated to the committee on 26th July, 2011 according to the Rajya Sabha website. I have learnt from a news release of Press Trust of India that you had referred this Bill to the Committee on 8th August, 2011.
May I ask will the committee be able to rise above the party position? Should party’s office-bearers be allowed to be a member of the committee? Isn’t it case of conflict of interest?
I submit that if Dr Singhvi were to be a judge and he had already represented a client in the past, judicial propriety (perhaps legislative propriety as well) would have required him to recuse himself from hearing the case of his client. As a spokesperson of Indian National Congress, he has already represented a particular viewpoint on the anti-corruption Lokpal Bill, 2011. This is a classic case of conflict of interest wherein the impartiality of this Committee comprising of Hon’ble members of Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha will get compromised. He may be asked to recuse from the Committee.
This applies to Shri Manish Tewari as well because he too has revealed his point of view creating a situation wherein his impartiality becomes questionable. He may be asked to keep away from the Committee.
I submit that Shri Lalu Prasad may be asked to keep away from this Committee as his case of Disproportionate Assets is pending in the court. A special CBI court on 18th August, 2011 rejected his petition seeking to exonerate him of charges in a case related to the multi-crore rupees fodder scam.
I submit that this also applies to Hon'ble Member of Parliament, Shri Amar Singh as his role in the cash for vote scams is being probed by Delhi Police. He may be asked to recuse himself from the Committee.
I submit that Shri Parimal Nathwani ‘s conflict of interest ridden status gets mention in Ms Niira Radia tapes. It was highlighted in the Rajya Sabha by Smt Brinda Karat wherein she sought reconsideration of rule 294, clause 1 under which a member can declare conflict of interest right before he speaks but this was not done by Shri Nathwani. You were given a representation seeking review of rule 294, clause 1 underlining how conflict of interest “does not strengthen or uphold dignity of the House”. There was appeal made to you to “relook and reconsider the said rule through the appropriate procedure to ensure that in a particular debate which directly affects a company in which he/she is directly involved, members should not participate in the debate.”
The same holds true for Shri Nathwani’s membership of the Committee that is to examine anti-corruption Lokpal Bill, 2011 and other Bills.
I submit that the committee may be asked to examine the reports of three Parliamentary Standing Committees on Lokpal Bill under the chairmanship of Shri Sompal and Shri Pranab Mukherjee presented in the Parliament in 1996, 1998, 2001 respectively.
In view of the above, the report of the Committee in the matter of The Judicial Standard and Accountability Bill, 2010 and The Public Interest Disclosure and Protection to Persons Making the Disclosures Bill, 2010 may also be re-examined as to whether the disputable status of some Hon’ble members impacted the report in any way.
I submit that Lokpal and Lokayukta Bill was introduced in the Parliament in 1968, 1971, 1977, 1985, 1989, 1996, 1998 and in 2001 but it was not passed. I apprehend the role of conflict of interest ridden Hon’ble members for such a situation. It merits a high level legislative probe by you and Hon’ble Speaker of the Lok Sabha to ascertain the manner in which such unprecedented delay has been engineered.
In the given situation, it was rational to expect that even government’s anti-corruption Lokpal Bil, 2011 will get introduced in the Rajya Sabha as has happened in the case of Women’s Reservation Bill so that the Bill does not lapse with the end of the tenure of 15th Lok Sabha but this did not happen. This too appears to have happened due to conflict of interest some Hon’ble members.
I submit that insertion of Section 57 in the National Identification Authority of India Bill, 2011, another proposed tool to combat corruption by the Union Ministry of Planning seems to be challenging the might of the Parliament and as long as Section 57 is there in this Bill Parliament's sovereignty and its competence to deal with even the Lokpal Bill appears compromised.
Therefore, I request you to reconsider and reconstitute this committee to begin with and other such committees subsequently, in view of the above mentioned facts. Only a reconstituted committee will have the moral stature to examine government’s Lokpal Bill, Jan Lokpal Bill and suggestions for Aam Jan Lokpal as a befitting response to unprecedented anti-corruption movement in our country.
Member, Citizens Forum for Civil Liberties (CFCL)
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Smt. Meira Kumar, Hon’ble Speaker, Lok Sabha, Parliament of India