Santosh Hegde to continue in Lokpal Committee

Justice Santosh Hegde`s threat to quit the Lokpal drafting committee over the alleged smear campaign against civil society activists blew over today with their representatives deciding that he will continue in the panel.

Updated: Apr 23, 2011, 22:04 PM IST

New Delhi: Justice Santosh Hegde`s threat
to quit the Lokpal drafting committee over the alleged smear
campaign against civil society activists blew over today with
their representatives deciding that he will continue in the
panel.

A meeting of the activists led by Anna Hazare also
decided to write to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Chief
Justice of India S H Kapadia offering themselves to any
high-level inquiry into any allegations against them.
"The Committee recognised that the prime national duty
of India Against Corruption has been to provide the country an
independent and accountable Lokpal.

"The Committee resolved that Hegde will continue as a
member. The Committee has also decided to write to the Prime
Minister and CJI to conduct any high-level inquiry into any
allegations against any of our members," Kiran Bedi, one of
the leading activists, told reporters after the meeting.

The meeting, attended by the 5 civil society
representatives in the committee including Shanti and Prashant
Bhushan, Hegde, Hazare and Arvind Kejriwal, took place against
the backdrop of raging controversies over a controversial CD,
allotment of prized land to the Bhushans and alleged evasion
of stamp duty by the Bhushans in Allahabad.

Hegde had on Thursday announced that he was
considering quitting the Committee in view of the criticism
voiced by Congress General Secretary Digvijay Singh and also
the "smear campaign" against the Bhushans.

However, this morning he indicated that he may not not
press ahead with the resignation in view of the statement made
by chairman of the committee and Finance Minister Pranab
Mukherjee that the government was keen on working with the
civil society representatives in the committee for drafting a
strong Lokpal legislation.

Hazare also welcomed Mukerjee`s statement and
expressed the hope that the Committee will expeditiously
complete the task and provide the country with an independent,
effective and accountable anti-corruption authority for the
country.
On Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati`s demand for
inclusion of a dalit representative in the drafting committee,
Kejriwal said the government could replace one of the five
ministers with a dalit representative.

When asked whether the civil society activists felt
that the government was deliberately attempting to derail the
process of drafting the bill, Kejriwal said all "corrupt
forces" in Congress and other parties and those "in and
outside" government have come together to obstruct the
enactment of such a bill.

"What is needed is that all well-meaning people should
come together not to allow the derailment of the process of
drafting a strong Lokpal Bill," he said.

Asked whether Shanti Bhushan and Hegde had expressed
their desire to resign from the committee, he said there
was no such thing.

"Corrupt people want us to resign. But we are not
falling into the trap," he said.

On Congress chief Sonia Gandhi`s remarks that she was
not in favour of any smear campaign, he said the party should
think whether such statements denigrating the civil society
should come.

Asked whether Hazare starting his `yatra` from UP has
any significance as the Congress has invited him to sit on a
dharna there, he said they were not for or against any party.

"We are going there not because they have called us.
We are not against any party or any person. We are going there
to tell people that they should stand together for the
enactment of a strong anti-corruption law," he said.
On the CFSL report on the controversial CD allegedly
involving Shanti Bhushan, Kejriwal alleged that the report was
"non-existent".

"Have anyone seen that report? Who has signed the
report. It does not exist. Media is agog with news stories on
a non-existent CFSL report," he claimed.

The meeting, also attended by Bedi and Swami Agnivesh,
also decided to reach out to people for both consultations and
awareness through `yatras` and meetings in different cities in
the coming weeks for which a detailed plan will be chalked
out.

"Several regional consultations in different parts of
the country are also being organized. Many civil society
groups have come forward. Jayprakash Narayan of Lok Satta is
organizing a public consultation with senior eminent citizens,
including retired judges, former Chief Election Commissioners
and others in the capital tomorrow.

"Medha Patkar is organizing a public consultation with
civil society groups on 8th May. Public consultations have
also been scheduled for April 26, 27 and 29 in Delhi. Other
dates are also being planned for such consultations," Kejriwal
said.

A bilingual website--www.lokpalbillconsultation.org
--has also been launched for people to access the latest
draft bill and offer suggestions, if any.

The public can also send comments and suggestions by
email to lokpalbillconsultation@gmail.com or by post to: A-119
First Floor, Kaushambi, Ghaziabad - 201010, Uttar Pradesh.

PTI