A strong Lokpal Bill would be ready by June 30, and would be introduced in the monsoon session of Parliament, the government has said.
This comes a day after sharp differences emerged between civil society activists and ministers in the panel formed to draft Lokpal Bill.
The Government fielded Home Minister P Chidambaram and HRD Minister Kapil Sibal , who are members of the Lokpal drafting committee, to spell out the Centre’s intentions. They termed Monday’s meeting as constructive. “We are on the right path – the path of inquiry, discussion, consultation, consensus and discussion,” said Chidambaram. Sibal added: “I don’t think anyone should suspect the intentions of the Government. The nation wants to see a strong Lokpal Bill. We will present in Parliament a strong billa¦ the draft of the bill will be ready by June 30, after some constructive dialogue on June 6 and 10 meetings. We are committed to present it in the monsoon session of Parliament.”
On Monday, activists on the joint drafting committee had threatened to walk out of the panel as the government disagreed with its suggestions on bringing in the PM, Election Commissioners, Defence brass, higher judiciary etc under the Lokpal’s ambit.
The Centre also sought to widen consultations and has written to all chief ministers and political parties. Chairman of the drafting committee, Pranab Mukherjee , asked chief ministers and political parties’ representatives in Parliament to give their views on six issues. They include the demand of civil society members that one single Act should provide for both the Lokpal in the Centre and Lokayukta in the state and whether state governments would be willing to accept a draft provision for the Lokayukta on the same lines as that of the Lokpal, apart from the contentious issue of bringing top constitutional functionaries under the bill’s ambit.
There are differences among activists over the issue of inclusion of the PM under the purview of Lokpal Bill. While the five civil society members on the panel feel that the PM should be included, Yoga Guru Baba Ramdev, who had supported Anna Hazare in his fast for a Lokpal Bill, showed a soft approach on the question. “The question is complicated. I don’t want to get into this debate. It is a serious matter if there are uncalled for comments on the person holding a senior position in the democracy,” he said at Sehore in Madhya Pradesh at his ‘Swabhiman Yatra’. The Opposition, however, is adopting a wait-and-watch approach on the contentious bill saying it will spell out its views when the government consults the party. Though Leader of Opposition Sushma Swaraj indicated support for activists’ demand to bring the Prime Minister under Lokpal, there are apprehensions in the party about the implications of such a move. BJP is also opposed to the judiciary falling under the bill’s purview.
Swaraj recalled that when Atal Bihari Vajpayee was the Prime Minister he had wanted the post to be under the Lokpal’s ambit. “In Atalji’s time, he had said he wants PM to be (under the Lokpal),” Swaraj said. Manmohan Singh too had expressed a similar desire but those who are against the move feel that it could be used to destabilise a government easily by filing complaints against the PM.
BJP is keeping the cards close to its chest as the government and civil society representatives slug it out. “We cannot comment on it till the government takes the opposition into confidence,” BJP chief spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad said here. Economic Times