Now that the debate has finally begun on the actual contours of the long-pending Lokpal Bill, the first major disagreement has surfaced over the inclusion of the prime minister within the ambit of the proposed anti-corruption watchdog.
Those who advocate that the prime minister should be brought under the jurisdiction of Lokpal do so simply because they believe the anti-corruption watchdog will not prove adequately effective if it cannot hold the head of the executive to account. Indeed it can be argued that an upright leader is a prerequisite for an upright team. Unless the leader of the team has the moral authority to set an example for the others to follow and to act against those who refuse to fall in line it becomes difficult to rein in errant members. The best safeguard against corruption, therefore, is to ensure that the leader remains accountable.
However, in the first public consultation on the proposed legislation held in New Delhi on Sunday, a few eminent participants felt that the prime minister should remain accountable only to parliament. India Today has quoted Justice Venkatachaliah, who did not favour the inclusion of the PM given the unstable nature of the Indian polity, as having said, "It may have international ramifications. The prime minister should be accountable only politically."
Even as consensus emerged on keeping the higher judiciary out of the Lokpal's purview, though, difference of opinion persisted on the office of prime minister. The 10-member joint drafting committee which includes five members of the Anna Hazare-led civil society group is expected to take into account the views expressed at this and all such subsequent public consultations on the Lokpal Bill.
Since the issue is far from settled, the question remains whether the prime minister shouldn't come within the ambit of Lokpal.