Final Lokpal panel meet ends with another impasse

Anna Hazare said he will go ahead with his fast to "teach the government a lesson".

Zeenews Bureau

New Delhi: The last meeting of the joint drafting committee on Lokpal Bill ended on Tuesday amidst serious differences between the government and the civil society over key points.

While government claimed that discussions with civil society have helped to bring out a "strong and robust" bill, the Hazare camp expressed "deep disappointment" with the government draft.

"The government has no intention to bring a strong Lokpal Bill. It is misleading the people. Now, there is no option but to go on fast from August 16 as announced earlier," Hazare told reporters after the meeting.

"People will teach them (government) a lesson," he said adding his agitation will be against the government and not Parliament as contended by Union Minister Salman Khurshid.
Talking to media persons, civil society representative and prominent lawyer Prashant Bhushan expressed his disappointment, saying, “There are six issues on which differences are there. We are very disappointed by the Lokpal model presented by the government.”

He further added, “The major point of contention is that the Lokpal will be appointed by the government panel which also has the authority to remove it.”

Another prominent member of Team Anna, Arvind Kejriwal asserted that government’s draft is a “toothless” model of the bill.

Bhushan revealed, “There will be a 10-member selection panel for the appointment of Lokpal out of which five will be from the ruling party whereas seven of them will be from the political strata. This itself puts a question mark on the intentions of the government,” he added.

Divulging further details, Prashant Bhushan said, “Government is not ready to keep higher judiciary and the Prime Minister under its ambit. They say, CBI will probe the PM, but the investigative body comes under him so how can it be a fair investigation?”

“Another major point of contention”, Prashant Bhushan said, “is that the government’s Lokpal is a toothless body. It has to ask the accused even before filing the FIR and also before taking the matter to the court. This is one of a kind provision in the whole world.”
He also stated, “Government is reluctant to bring sitting MPs under the purview of Lokpal, so if an MP is caught taking bribe for raising a question in Parliament, Lokpal cannot investigate it.”

He also informed that the government is not ready to keep Lokpal for the Centre and Lokayukta for the state in the same bill and is asserting on continuing with the same Lokayukta.

Meanwhile, reacting from the government’s side, Union Minister Kapil Sibal said, “We are committed to present the Lokpal Bill in the Monsoon Session of Parliament.”

Talking about the meeting, Sibal said, “We exchanged our respective drafts of the Lokpal Bill and had a good discussion. Not a debate, but a discussion.”

He further added, “We will now take the matter to the cabinet. The cabinet will decide on the final draft of the bill taking points from both the drafts. We are committed to a strong Lokpal Bill.”

The ninth and final meeting was held at the office of Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, chairman of the drafting committee. Except for Home Minister P Chidambaram, who is in Jammu and Kashmir, all the other nine members attended the meeting.

Sources said that the civil society draft contained contentious proposals like inclusion of Prime Minister, higher judiciary and conduct of MPs inside Parliament within the ambit of the Lokpal.

It also seeks jurisdiction over the CBI and state Lokayuktas.

The civil society draft has a provision relating to the panel for selection of Lokpal and his removal in which a citizen has the right to move the Supreme Court.