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Lokpal panel meet ends without consensus

Two versions of the Lokpal Bill draft to be prepared. Next meeting of the panel will be held on June 20.

Zeenews Bureau

New Delhi: The seventh meeting held by 10-member joint drafting committee of the Lokpal Bill ended here on Wednesday without any consensus being reached.

The meet seemed to only highlight the strong divide that is already prevalent between the civil society members and the government on the key issues pertaining to the Lokpal Bill.

Kapil Sibal, one of the members of the Lokpal committee representing the government, said that no consensus could be reached on the various basic issues concerning the structure of the Lokpal Bill and that the next meeting will be held on June 20 and June 21.

“Structurally, there is no convergence of opinions as to what the Jan Lokpal should be…The next meeting will be held on June 20, and it might be extended to June 21.”

As far as the deadline of drafting the Lokpal Bill is concerned, it was retained to be on June 30, with Sibal saying that there would be two different versions in the draft, one prepared by the government members and the other one as structured by the civil society members.

Sibal said that the final draft – containing both the versions - would be sent to the Cabinet for further jurisdiction on what actually would be the form of the Lokpal Bill.

“We are confident of drafting the bill by June 30. The draft will contain both the versions, that of the government and that of civil society members… we don’t want to make it appear as if the civil society members are being ignored.”

On the other hand, Arvind Kejriwal, a member of the Anna Hazare team, slammed the government saying that it was adopting a hard line attitude and remained determined not to reach consensus.

"The meeting was not good, nothing could be achieved in it," said civil society member of Lokpal committee Arvind Kejriwal.

Kejriwal said that two main issues were discussed at the meeting.

One was about the method of investigation into corruption cases against officers working in different departments. Kejriwal said that the officers embroiled in corruption cases wield enough influence in their departments and manage to do away with departmental probe and retain their designation. So, the civil society members suggested, such cases should be brought under the jurisdiction of the Lokpal, but the government didn’t approve of it.

The other issue discussed in the meeting was the
structure of Lokpal. The Hazare team proposed an 11-member
independent anti-corruption watchdog with subordinates having
powers while the government side differed arguing that only 11
members be empowered to take decisions.

"So, if an income tax officer demanded a bribe to give
an income tax refund in Bangalore, the citizen will have to
make a complaint to the eleven member body in Delhi and come
to Delhi for hearings. There would be thousands of complaints
from across the country. How will these eleven members deal
with it?" Kejriwal said.

"The government did not reply. They just announced
their decision. We wanted a Lokpal with officers working under
it at district level, who would have powers to deal with cases
at local level. Government refuses to accept that model,"
Kejriwal said.

The civil society representatives had boycotted the previous meeting of the panel, opposing police action on the venue of yoga guru Ramdev’s anti-corruption fast.