Cabinet clears Lokpal Bill, Anna ups the ante

In a much awaited decision, the Union Cabinet meeting on Tuesday cleared the Lokpal Bill, which may be tabled in Parliament on December 22.

Zeenews Bureau

New Delhi: In a much awaited decision, the Union Cabinet meeting on Tuesday cleared the Lokpal Bill, which may be tabled in Parliament on December 22. The final draft of the bill was okayed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh earlier today.

Not yielding to Anna Hazare`s demand, government is understood to have decided to keep CBI
out of the purview of the proposed Lokpal. The CBI itself had said that it does not want to come under the purview of the Lokpal. To bring the investigating agency under Lokpal’s ambit, amendments will be needed for which the government is not ready, as is being said.

With Team Anna outrightly rejecting the draft fine-tuned by the government, it has become clear that a showdown between Anna Hazare and the government is imminent. Earlier in the day the social activist made it clear that he would go on a fast for three days starting from December 27. On an emotional note the Gandhian added that he would “fight for a strong anti-graft bill till my last breath.”

“This is not an initiative about the CBI. This is an initiative about the Lokpal,” reacted Standing Committee chairman Abhishek Singhvi talking to media.

As per reports, the government plans to introduce the new Lokpal Bill and the Constitutional Amendment Bill in the Lok Sabha on December 22 and to see that they are passed on the same day.

Sources said after their passage, the two bills will be taken to Rajya Sabha the next day December 23 for passage.

It is also being said that the government was being forced to hurry with the issue because of opposition to the plans for extension of the Winter Session beyond Christmas.

On Thursday, the existing Lokpal Bill introduced in August will be withdrawn.

The draft Cabinet note, to which officials of the Personnel and Legislative Department had given final touches last night, was sent to the PM who cleared it for the special Cabinet meeting tonight. Home Minister P Chidambaram, Law Minister Salman Khurshid and Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal discussed the amendments to the Lokpal yesterday and finalised the changes.

Minister of State for Personnel V Narayansamy was also part of these discussions, in a day which saw hectic parleys in the national capital yesterday.

Sources said that the Lokpal would have no control over the CBI, a demand strongly pursued by Hazare and his team during the last several months. The sources also said there would be no separate Directorate of Prosecution of the CBI under the Lokpal.

Among other amendments proposed to the existing Lokpal Bill is that the panel to choose CBI chief would comprise the Prime Minister, Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha
and the Chief Justice of India. The Chief Justice of India is being named in the place of Lok Sabha Speaker as originally planned.

The bill will also provide for impeachment of the Lokpal for which 100 MPs have to initiate a proposal. The Lokpal also cannot initiate a probe on its own and can only act on complaints referred to it, the sources said.

The office of PM is expected to be brought within the purview of Lokpal with certain safeguards.

Accusing the UPA of ignoring the voice of people, Anna Hazare today alleged that a "weak" Citizens` Charter Bill showed that government`s intentions were not honest on Lokpal Bill.

Rejecting the Citizens` Charter Bill, Hazare said the people of the country were cheated by the government and he will go ahead with the plans to campaign against the government in the Assembly elections in five poll-bound states.

“The intentions of the government are not honest. From December 30, onwards there will be jail bharo agitation till January 01," Hazare told reporters.

Maintaining that the government`s intentions on bringing an effective Lokpal bill were "suspect", Hazare said the government was ignoring the "voice of the people".

"The common man`s life has become miserable due to all-pervasive corruption. But the government has become blind. It cannot see or hear the suffering of the people," he said.

"This government has turned blind. It does not see the problems of people. This government has turned deaf. It does not hear the problems of people. Crores of people are demanding Jan Lokpal Bill. But it is not listening," he said.

With PTI inputs

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