Cabinet meet on Lokpal likely on Tuesday



Cabinet meet on Lokpal likely on Tuesday 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