Cabinet meet on Lokpal likely on Tuesday

Last Updated: Tuesday, December 20, 2011 - 00:36

New Delhi: Bringing Prime Minister in the
ambit of Lokpal with adequate safeguards and change in mode of
appointment of CBI director could be among the provisions the
government is looking to incorporate in the Lokpal Bill to be
introduced in Parliament, possibly in the next couple of days.

These are among the 60 official amendments the government
was on Monday said to be giving final touches to in the bill
that is expected to be brought to the Cabinet tomorrow.

The government was also considering extending the
current Winter Session, which concludes on December 22, from
December 27 to 29, after a five-day break for Christmas.

A meeting of the Cabinet, which was to take place tonight,
was put off till at least tomorrow as the draft was not ready,
sources said.

A senior minister said that decisions on all issues have
been taken and "some faults" were being removed.

The sources said the government is unlikely to meet Team
Anna`s demand for bringing CBI entirely under Lokpal but is
ready to carve out from it an independent prosecution wing.

There is also a proposal for changing the selection
procedure for the CBI chief by including Leaders of Opposition
in both the Houses in the selection committee, they said.

A senior minister said the government felt that an
institution cannot be killed to set up another institution.

A group of senior ministers completed the exercise of
"cleaning up" the draft of the bill amid Anna Hazare`s looming
threat of going on hunger strike from December 27 if the
anti-graft legislation was not passed by then.

The sources said that in view of over 60 official
amendments mooted, there was a plan to withdraw the Bill
introduced in August and table a revised one, either on
Wednesday or Thursday.

Home Minister P Chidambaram is leading a team of ministers
which met today to fine tune the proposed legislation,
particularly on the most contentious issue of the jurisdiction
of the Lokpal over CBI.

The sources said an appropriate language was being worked
out, particularly on the aspect of CBI, and Chidambaram was
focusing on that as he was not happy with the draft prepared
earlier for consideration of the Cabinet.

Law Minister Salman Khurshid said the officials have to
work on the draft. "I hope it will be the last night they will
have to stay awake (to work on the draft)," he said.

Khurshid, who is involved in the drafting process along
with Personnel Minister V Narayansamy, said, "We have finished
the cleaning up of the draft. We had instructions to clean up
the draft and we have cleaned up the draft".

The changes would go to the Cabinet for approval before
which Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Finance Minister
Pranab Mukherjee would have a look at it, he said.

After the Prime Minister gives the signal, the bill will
go to Cabinet which is expected tomorrow, Khurshid said.

He said the final architecture of the changed Bill would
be known only after the Cabinet approves it and sends it to
Parliament for consideration.

The Law Minister said the government would bring the
Lokpal Bill in the current session. There may not be any
need to extend it, he felt.

Apart from Chidambaram and Khurshid, Telecom Minister
Kapil Sibal and Minister of State for Personnel V Narayansamy
were also present in the meeting to finalise the changes.

Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal said
the Lokpal Bill may not be fully acceptable to all but all
sections of the House would find it "acceptable" except those
"who are opposed to the very concept of Lokpal".

Bansal said a three-line whip has been issued to Congress
MPs asking them to be present and vote in Parliament in favour
of the government on crucial bills that would come up from
tomorrow till Thursday.

The Congress allies are also expected to issue similar
whips.

Bansal said that the Judicial Accountability Bill and
the Whistleblowers Bill are not likely to come up in this
session.

At the AICC briefing, party spokesman Abhishek Singhvi
steered clear of questions on the stand of the party on
certain aspects of the bill which have been contentious.

"There is no position of a political party when a bill is
about to come to Parliament within 24 to 48 hours. It is
absolutely futile," said Singhvi, who is also the Chairman of
the Parliamentary Standing Committee that went into the Lokpal
Bill.

Meanwhile, the CBI is learnt to have opposed the proposal
to make the Directorate of Prosecution independent of it.

The agency has informed the government that the proposal
was not pragmatic in nature as prosecution wings were embedded
in various branches of the CBI.

It has also maintained that around 7,200 undertrial cases
under the Prevention of Corruption Act were being supervised
by the directorate at the moment and any change could delay in
bringing them to logical conclusion.

PTI



First Published: Monday, December 19, 2011 - 08:27

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