Quit panel if you doubt Lokpal’s effectiveness, Hazare tells Sibal

Controversy dogged the Lokpal Bill panel with Anna Hazare slamming HRD Minister Kapil Sibal for doubting the effectiveness of the legislation.

New Delhi: Controversy dogged the joint committee set up to draft an effective Lokpal Bill even before it starts its work with Gandhian Anna Hazare on Monday asking HRD Minister Kapil Sibal to resign from it "if he feels nothing will come" out of this institution.

His colleagues in the campaign for a strong Lokpal
Bill, Kiran Bedi and Arvind Kejriwal, also slammed Sibal, who,
however, denied having made any such statement and that he was
with Hazare for drafting a strong anti-corruption legislation.

The 73-year-old social activist, who fought a
successful battle for constitution of a 10-member committee of
ministers and civil society representatives, said, "If Sibal
feels that nothing will happen due to the Lokpal Bill then he
should resign from the joint committee as soon as possible."

Before leaving for his village Ralegaon Siddhi in
Maharashtra, he told reporters, "Why is he (Sibal) wasting his
and our time? He should do other things for the country. Why
does he want to be in the committee?

"If you believe that nothing will happen, you should
not be there in the joint committee, he should resign and do
some other work."

The committee, chaired by senior minister Pranab
Mukherjee, is to hold its first meeting on April 16 and is
expected to come out with its draft of the Bill by June 30.

Sibal had yesterday told a public meeting here, "I ask
this question. If a poor child does not have any means for
education, then how will Lokpal Bill help? If a poor man needs
help for medical services then, he will call up a politician.
How will Lokpal Bill help?"

Asked about Hazare`s demand, Sibal told reporters
today that he was with the Gandhian and that he wanted the
Bill to be drafted as early as possible and to be effective in
tackling corruption everywhere.

Clarifying his yesterday`s remarks, he said what he had
meant was that "the scope of the Bill is different. The
problems of the common man are different."

"I said that if you want to educate children, then
this has no connection to Lokpal. If there is no water...
Lokpal is only connected to corruption and we will bring a
good bill that will stop corruption."

He said they would sit with Hazare and bring out a
bill so that the objective will be realised.

Bedi said Sibal should not waste the time of other
committee members if he had no faith in its efforts. "Then it
is better for him to withdraw from the committee," she said.

Activist Arvind Kejriwal said Sibal should not have
made "sweeping" statements on the Lokpal which were raising
doubts about the "seriousness" of the government in bringing
in the legislation.

Kejriwal said, "If you are not getting ration due to
corruption, then you can get relief from this Lokpal. If you
are not getting admission in a school, you can get some
relief.

"But if there is no school, then Lokpal will not help
you. It is a different domain and government has to do it," he
said adding the legislation is meant only for tackling
corruption."

Questioning the sincerity and seriousness of the
government on the issue, Kejriwal said, "Obstacles were put on
even small issue like issuing a notification on the
setting up of the joint drafting committee.

"Now how many obstacles they will put during the
committee meetings, we don`t know. We have great fear. May be
many more protests are needed," Kejriwal said.

He said when the legislation has people`s backing
"Sibal cannot do anything".

The other minister Khurshid said a decision to
videograph the proceedings of the Joint Committee Bill as
sought by Gandhian Anna Hazare has to be taken up by the panel
itself.

Responding to a question on the demand by Hazare to
videograph and make public the proceedings of the committee to
ensure transparency in the drafting process, Khurshid said,
"The Joint Drafting Committee is supposed to decide its own
procedure. This procedure about making whatever happens there
public or televising it, will be decided by the committee
itself.... I can`t comment on it as an individual."

He said the draft Lokpal Bill was a "high priority"
and it will be ready "very soon".

Asked whether the Bill which seeks to create an
ombudsman will be effective in fighting corruption, he said,
"The way we try to better ourselves in other facets of life,
this will be done in politics also and this will be an
important step in that direction."

But, he added, "Has God`s existence ended all the
vices? We still have to tell good things to our children. We
still have to build temples and pray."

Meanwhile, BJP waded into the controversy saying
comments by ministers Sibal and Salman Khurshid, who is also a
member of the committee, raises doubts over the government`s
intentions on making an effective law.

Party spokesperson Nirmala Seetharaman said Sibal, who
made controversial statements on 2G scam, was in the habit of
saying something first and retracting it later.

"The kind of statements he is making does not
instil confidence," she said.

Seetharaman also faulted Khurshid for his statement
and said the kind of statements coming from responsible
ministers did not look like they were "working for
consensus".

Congress answered the criticism against the ministers
saying "we should not queer the pitch".

Party spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi said one should
not get into charges and counter-charges when a positive
process has been set in motion.

PTI

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