Government now opposes inclusion of PM in Lokpal ambit
The meeting of the 10-member Lokpal drafting committee ended on a bitter note, with civil society virtually signalling ultimatum to the government.
New Delhi: Sharp differences surfaced on Monday between the government and civil society members in 5th joint drafting committee meeting for Lokpal Bill, with the government strongly opposing demands to bring the Prime Minister, higher judiciary and MPs` corrupt acts inside the Parliament, under the ambit of Lokpal.
The three-hour meeting of the 10-member drafting committee ended on a bitter note, with civil society members virtually signalling ultimatum to the government.
"We are not ready for a weak Lokpal bill," Arvind Kejriwal, a civil society representative in the Lokpal committee said. He added, “Today`s meeting was a complete disaster. If one more meeting falls, we are walking out.”
The civil society activists pushed for the inclusion of Prime Minister, higher judiciary and MPs, including their actions inside Parliament, armed forces and entire bureaucracy under the Lokpal`s ambit. However, the government nominees opposed these demands saying probe against the Prime Minister could render the post "dysfunctional".
“If any enquiry starts against the Prime Minister, then he would lose all authority to govern and take decisions”, the government nominees said.
Senior lawyer Prashant Bhushan, member of the Lokpal committee from civil society reminded the government side that in the Bofors case, the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi was under the scanner but that did not deter him from taking decisions.
Kejriwal argued, "Today we have an honest Prime Minister. But if we happen to have a dishonest Prime Minister tomorrow, should his wrongdoings be out of the Lokpal? Are we willing to make that compromise?"
On judiciary, when the government said it would be out of the domain of Lokpal, the civil society side reminded that all it was asking was allotting the power to a seven-member bench of Lokpal to decide if an FIR should be registered against a judge or not.
The government also does not want to include the junior bureaucrats below the rank of Joint secretary in the ambit of Lokpal. Civil society activists said what is the point if only 200-odd senior bureaucrats be brought within the purview of the Lokpal.
"Today`s meeting was quite disastrous," a two-page statement issued by the civil society members said. Listing the contentious issues, the civil society statement said the government "disagreed on everything.”
The statement said, "Definitely, government`s intentions are suspect. Please prepare yourself for the next huge movement in the country.”
Kejriwal wanted to know if the government’s proposal enjoys the backing of Prime Minister and Congress president.
"We request the Prime Minister and Sonia Gandhi to say whether this is the official stand of the government" a furious Kejriwal asked.
Anna Hazare who is spearheading the campaign for a strong and effective Lokpal bill, said that he was not hopeful of the government meeting its deadline of June 30 for preparing the bill.
Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal, who is a government representative in the Lokpal committee, however, gave a guarded reaction and expressed confidence that the bill for a strong and effective Lokpal will be a reality.
"We remain committed to provide the people an effective Lokpal. We must provide the country with a transparent legislation as corruption is an issue which concerns everybody," he said.
Sibal said that the government needs time to appoint Loakayukta in every state. He said any Lokpal bill had to be in conformity with the provisions of the constitution and that the government needed to discuss certain issues with states and political parties.
Monday`s meeting was the fifth between the government and civil society representatives. The next meetings are scheduled for June 6 and 10.
With Agency inputs