M A I N   N E W S

Stalemate continues on Lokpal
n No consensus at all-party meet
n Left, Right on same page on inclusion of PM
Anita Katyal
Our Political Correspondent

New Delhi, December 14
After arriving at a broad agreement with the UPA allies on the final shape of the Lokpal Bill, the all-party meeting called by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh tonight failed to forge a consensus on key provisions of the proposed legislation.

Party leaders, who participated in the four-hour meeting, reiterated their known positions while the Prime Minister urged all parties to cooperate in the passage of the Lokpal Bill in the ongoing session of Parliament on the basis of a consensus. ďThis should not be subjected to party politics in any way,Ē he said to the leaders in his opening remarks.

At the end of the inconclusive meeting, the government said it would get back to the party leaders after internal deliberations. The government faces the tough task of reconciling different views so that it is able to pass the Bill in the winter session, which concludes on December 22. If it fails to do so, it will have to deal with Anna Hazare, who has already declared that he will undertake his fourth indefinite fast if his version of the Lokpal is not passed.

Most parties, including the BJP, CPM, Samajwadi Party and Akali Dal, agreed that the Prime Minister should be brought under the ambit of the Lokpal but with riders. Ram Vilas Paswan, however, did not want the PM to be placed under the ombudsmanís purview.

CPMís Sitaram Yechury and BJPís Sushma Swaraj wanted the Lokpal to have powers to investigate corruption cases against the 57 lakh Group C government employees, but CPI leader Gurudas Dasgupta argued against it on the plea that it would overburden the proposed Lokpal.

Although the government did not spell out its stand at the meeting, it is willing to accept the conditional inclusion of the Prime Minister and Class C employees under the ambit of the proposed Lokpal, as demanded by the Opposition and Team Anna.

There were also different views on the status of the CBI, which remains a sticking point. Yechury stated that the Lokpal would be ineffective if the CBIís investigative wing or an independent investigative wing was not placed under its charge.

However, the status of the CBI is a sticking point. The BJP wants the Lokpal to have administrative control over the CBI and greater autonomy for the agencyís investigative wing. Samajwadi Partyís Mohan Singh said that the Lokpal should have powers to monitor only those cases which are referred by it to the CBIís investigative wing.

Sources said the government has suggested that the CBIís prosecution wing be placed under the Lokpal while its investigation and administrative wings remain independent. The Centre is also amenable to the BJP suggestion that the CBI director be appointed not by the government but by a panel which could include the Prime Minister, the Home Minister, Leader of Opposition and a Constitutional authority.

Team Anna, however, is adamant that the CBI director should report to the Lokpal. It is also not in favour of bifurcating the agency and instead wants the ombudsman to have complete financial and administrative control over the CBI.

The government is working overtime to forge a consensus among all political parties prior to the debate in Parliament so that the Bill has a smooth passage in both Houses. The government needs to have the Opposition on its side as it does not have a majority in the Rajya Sabha.

Meanwhile, CVC Pradeep Kumar and CBI director AP Singh met the Prime Minister before the all-party meeting and expressed their concern over the dilution of the powers of their respective agencies.

While Kumar objected to the inclusion of Group C employees within the ambit of the Lokpal, as these cases are currently supervised by the CVC, Singh is not in favour of bifurcating the CBI and wants all administrative, financial and legal powers to be vested in the agencyís chief.





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