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Lokpal debate fail to reconcile key differences
Published on 22 Jun. 2011 12:39 AM IST
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Two turbulent months and eight bilateral meetings later, the government and the civil society Tuesday ended their marathon discussions on a Lokpal bill, agreeing on the urgent need to battle corruption but failing to reconcile key differences.
Although Tuesday’s one-hour meeting between the two five-member teams ended without any of the earlier acrimony, both sides could not overcome their divergent views on six major issues, including on the need to have the prime minister investigated by the proposed ombudsman.
In no time, a disappointed civil society icon and Gandhian Anna Hazare insisted he would not call off his protest hunger strike starting here Aug 16.
“There is no other way. I have been saying right from the beginning that they are not serious about Lokpal,” he said. “We will protest, and people will teach them a lesson.”
His colleague and lawyer Prashant Bhushan said: “The meeting was disappointing.” Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal said the two sides “agreed to disagree”.
Both the government and the civil society, which had gathered enormous public support across India since taking on the government in April, released their respective versions of the proposed Lokpal bill.
Minority Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid later told a news conference that the government now had “a very robust bill” and it honestly wanted to “provide a corruption free administration in the country”.
“Critically, we have given much more than what was hoped by the civil society. We are not running away from anything. Corruption in high places and of a larger nature should be addressed immediately.”
He said Prime Minister Manmohan Singh would study the Lokpal draft.
Law Minister M. Veerappa Moily said the proposed Lokpal could have independent investigation and prosecution wings, enjoy financial autonomy, its investigating officrs would have full police powers and it could take up suo moto cases besides having quasi-judicial powers.
But Sibal quickly underlined the limitations of the Lokpal.
“We cannot afford to have a parallel government outside of the government to run this country,” he said, indicating this was Team Hazare’s aim.
“Can we have a parallel executive investigation agency outside the government, answerable to nobody outside the framework of the government?”
The major issues of contention included the prime minister and the higher judiciary.
The civil society wants both institutions to come under the ambit of the Lokpal. The government disagrees. The government also feels that only officers of the rank of joint secretary and above should be probed - not the entire bureacruacy.
The government says that MPs can be investigated -- but not for what they do in parliament.
Both the government, which is battling a major image problem in view of various corruption scandals, and the civil society are now expected to take their battle into a larger domain -- political parties and public.
The government hurriedly set up a five-member team of ministers to talk to Hazare and four of his colleagues after the Gandhian’s five-day hunger strike here in April sparked off nationwide protests. The two sides met for the first time April 16.
Even as differences cropped up, their relations took a beating after Hazare criticized the authorities for forcibly breaking up a fast against corruption by yoga guru Baba Ramdev here earlier this month.
Team Hazare then boycotted a June 6 meeting with the ministers, igniting angry responses from the government.
9 different points Team Anna and Government agreed to disagree on
Should PM be under purview of Lokpal
Team Anna: YES
Govt: NO
Higher judiciary under purview of Lokpal
Team Anna: YES
Govt: NO
Conduct of MPs in parliament included
Team Anna: YES
Govt: NO
CBI & CVC to be merged with Lokpal
Team Anna: YES
Govt: NO
Lokpal selection panel must have CAG, CEC
Team Anna: YES
Govt: NO
Civil society wants all bureaucracy to be included
Team Anna: YES
Govt: NO
Team Anna wants Lokpal in every state
Team Anna: YES
Govt: NO
Amendment of CRPC
Team Anna: NO
Govt: YES
Power to impose fine
Team Anna: YES
Govt: NO

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