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Govt, civil members to meet today
Published on 20 Jun. 2011 12:42 AM IST
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Amid sharp differences between representatives of government and civil society, the two sides will meet on Monday in a last ditch attempt to resolve contentious issues and hammer out a consensus on the Lokpal Bill.
On the eve of the meeting of the Lokpal joint drafting committee - the eighth since April 16, senior ministers held discussions for nearly three hours on Sunday evening to fine tune the Government’s strategy.
The deliberations, chaired by Finance Minister and panel chairman Pranab Mukherjee, were attended by union ministers Kapil Sibal, Salman Khurshid and Veerappa Moily - all members of the committee.
Minister of state in PMO V Narayanaswamy also took part in the parleys. However, another member of the committee home minister P Chidambaram was not present as he was out of town. None of the ministers spoke to media after the meeting which lasted about two hours.
Monday’s deliberations could be the last meeting of the joint committee and another round will be held on Tuesday if the discussions for an anti-corruption watchdog are not concluded on Monday.
Karnataka Lokayukta Santosh Hegde, a member of the drafting committee, denied any split in the Anna Hazare camp and said he will attend the panel’s meeting and backed the social activist’s planned fast from August 16 after opposing it.
After his comments on Hazare’s fast and inability to take part in the meeting in Delhi fuelled speculation of differences among civil society representatives, Hegde said he will be present on June 21 to show there is ‘no rift’.
While the government has virtually ruled out bringing the post of the Prime Minister under the ambit of the anti-corruption watchdog, Congress core group has favoured convening an all-party meeting on the issue of inclusion of the PM. The Hazare camp is pressing for bringing the Prime Minister under Lokpal’s purview.
A final view on the ticklish issue will be taken by the union cabinet once the draft bill reaches it after consultation with political parties, he said.
A government representative of the Committee said the inclusion of judiciary and conduct of MPs inside Parliament in the proposed legislation was “not possible” as it would amount to amending the Constitution.
“The Committee’s mandate is clear and that is to enact a legislation. The members led by Anna Hazare are also clear about the is in the notification,” he said. But the member insisted that the government side will try its best to convince the civil society members about its “stand and compulsions”.
However, the Anna Hazare team dubbed the argument to keep the Prime Minister out of Lokpal’s ambit as “absurd”. “There is no reason whatsoever to exclude the Prime Minister. Whatever arguments are being given seem to suggest that if the Prime Minister was subject to anti-corruption investigation then he would become dysfunctional,” lawyer Prashant Bhushan, a team member, said.
He said the argument was “absurd” as the Prime Minister can be investigated by the CBI, which is under his control, but not an independent agency like Lokpal. If the two sides fail to settle their differences, a draft bill with points of agreements and disagreements will be prepared.
The government and civil society are at loggerheads on the issues of inclusion of prime minister, judiciary and conduct of MPs inside Parliament.
Probe PM after he quits: Sibal
Kapil Sibal in an interview with the NDTV Sunday said that the two sides have agreed on as many as 36 of 40 features of the Bill.
Sibal also said that in his opinion, the Lokpal Bill should not apply to the Prime Minister’s Office and that credible allegations of corruption against the PM should be investigated after the PM has completed his or her term.
He was also emphatic that reports that two drafts of the Bill-one each from ministers and activists- will be sent to the Cabinet for review are incorrect.
Instead, Sibal said, the version sent will include the points of divergence between Team Anna and the ministers on the Drafting Committee.
Defending the government’s treatment of Baba Ramdev, Sibal said “We have exposed him.”

Deadlocked on 6 issues
Even as a full-blown war is on between the government and the civil society members of the Lokpal bill drafting committee, the two sides are still trying to narrow down some of their differences which have been pegged to six at present.
Three of these issues are now well known: the civil society demands of bringing the office of the prime minister as well as higher judiciary under Lokpal, and conduct of MPs inside Parliament. The government is opposed to all the three proposals.
The other three issues are: should one single Act be provided for both the Lokpal at the Centre and Lokayukta in states; should the government officials be subjected to inquiry and disciplinary action including dismissal/removal by Lokpal/Lokayukta; and, what should be the definition of the Lokpal and should it itself exercise quasi-judicial powers also or delegate these powers to its subordinate officers?

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