M A I N   N E W S

PM out of govt draft; Anna to go on fast 
from August 16
Govt asserts that it will not allow a parallel structure "answerable to nobody"
Faraz Ahmad
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, June 21
The series of meetings between the Union Government and the Team Anna over the proposed Lokpal Bill ended today after nine sittings. Both the sides dismissed each other's draft as too outrageous and unacceptable and the government draft eventually kept the Prime Minister out of the Lokpal's purview. Disappointed over the outcome of events, Anna Hazare announced that he would go ahead with his fast from August 16 to "teach the government a lesson".

There were eight points of disagreement between the two sides. On behalf of Anna, Arvind Kejriwal and Prashant Bhushan felt "deeply disappointed" with the government draft, while Kapil Sibal dismissed the Jan Lokpal Bill prescribed by the Team Anna as a proposal to set up an extra-constitutional parallel authority bigger than and above the government, and accountable to none.

Other areas of differences between the two sides included the selection committee for Lokpal, which Kejriwal dismissed as crowded by the government to make it really independent, while Kapil Sibal wondered how their suggestion of including the CAG and the CEC would make the committee more independent than the judges of high courts and the Supreme Court.

The Jan Lokpal proposal to censure all actions of MPs and legislators in and outside Parliament and state assemblies was dismissed by Law Minister Veerappa Moily as transgressing Article 105(2) of the Constitution and, therefore, not acceptable.

Moily said whereas Anna wanted abolition of Lokayuktas and a central command of Lokpal to censure down to the states, "23 chief ministers have written back to us, dismissing the proposal".

While the government conceded the demand to empower the proposed Lokpal with "investigation, prosecution and quasi-judicial authority", it dismissed the Jan Lokpal Bill proposal to decide departmental proceedings as well. The government draft allowed only recommendatory role to the Lokpal in that respect.

Anna's men wanted the Lokpal to make its own budget, which would be less than 1 per cent of the GDP and drawn directly from the Consolidated Fund of India. The government, on the other hand, considered it too preposterous and instead devised a procedure whereby the Lokpal makes its budget and presents it for approval to the Finance Ministry.

At the end of perhaps the shortest of the nine meetings, marked primarily by the exchange of two drafts and pleasantries between both the parties, the two sides celebrated the cordiality while Kapil Sibal said, "We agreed to disagree." He conceded that the differences persisted.

But Moily and Salman Khursheed, also members of the committee, appeared more positive and said their draft Bill, a combination of views of both sides, was the product of consensus building on at least 34 of the 40 points. Paying compliments to the Civil Society, Khursheed conceded that their present draft was a marked improvement on their earlier drafts.

On the other hand, Bhushan debunked the government model as just a "symbolic attempt" to install an authority in the name of Lokpal rather than a "comprehensive, independent, empowered" institution to fight corruption.

Bhushan and Kejriwal said the government draft made it clear that the ruling party would have control over the Lokpal as five of the seven political members of the selection committee would be from the party in power.

"I must say I am deeply disappointed by the model of Lokpal that the government has proposed," Bhushan said. Kejriwal regretted that the earlier draft had at least proposed to bring the Prime Minister under the Lokpal, but the present had dispensed with that as well.

"We will now circulate the two drafts to the political parties and after incorporating their suggestions, will send the Bill to the Cabinet for consideration," Sibal said.





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