Govt, Hazare clinch deal

Govt, Hazare clinch deal

Joint panel to be set up to draft Lokpal Bill; activist to end fast today

Govt, Hazare clinch deal

Noted lawyer Shanti Bhushan speaks as social activist Anna Hazare and his supporters Swami Agnivesh and Kiran Bedi look on during the fourth day of Hazare’s indefinite fast for ‘Jan Lokpal Bill’ in New Delhi on Friday. PTIConsequently, Hazare announced in New Delhi that he would end his hunger-strike at 10 am on Saturday.

The announcement of an agreement came from both sides after four days of Hazare’s fast-unto-death that evoked a nationwide support.

“The government has accepted all our demands and I will end my fast at 10:30 am on Saturday. This is a victory for the entire nation,” Hazare said.

Union Minister Kapil Sibal, who led the government team of negotiators, welcomed Hazare’s announcement. The order will be issued around 10 am on Saturday after which Hazare will end his fast.

“This is a victory for democracy,” Hazare said. “It is for the government now to issue an order constituting the committee that will include representatives of civil society and the government.”

However, Hazare’s emissaries Kiran Bedi and Swami Agnivesh made it clear that the protest fast will not end till the government issues the order.

The denouement came after Hazare’s emissaries met ministers for a round of talks, third in two days and after some hiccups.

Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee will be the chairman of the committee that will also include  Law Minister Veerappa Moily, Telecom Minister Sibal, Home Minister P Chidambaram and Water Resources Minister Salman Khurshid as members.

Besides Hazare, those representing “civil society” in the joint committee will be eminent lawyers Shanti Bhushan and Prashant Bhushan, Karnataka Lokayukta and retired Supreme Court Judge Santosh Hegde and RTI activist Arvind Kejriwal. Shanti Bhushan will be the co-chairman.

Anti-corruption activists have reportedly wanted Santosh Hegde to be on the panel to clear the draft “Jan Lokpal Bill” along with Shanti Bhushan and Arvind Kejriwal.

However, in Bangalore, Santosh Hegde on Friday made it clear that he would not like to be on the panel to clear the draft bill. “There were proposals to include me on the panel, but I have many things to do in the next three months before my term as Lokayukta comes to an end,” said Hegde.

The Karnataka ombudsman, however, expressed his desire to know the panelist who would clear the draft bill. He said that Justice J S Verma “is the right person” but he doubted whether he would like to be on the panel.

In the agreement made in New Delhi, the government has committed itself to introducing the new Lokpal Bill in the forthcoming monsoon session of Parliament.

Moily will be the convener of the 10-member joint drafting committee that will commence its work forthwith and evolve its own procedures to prepare the proposed legislation.
“A Government Order will be immediately issued constit­u­ting the drafting committee incorporating the names of 10 members of the committee, the chairperson, the co-chair and the time frame,” the agreement said.

Earlier in the evening, Hazare said “some shortcomings have been sighted in the government draft. So the fast will continue. We will let all of you know about the decision.” 

The st­atement came in what app­eared to be an anti-climax after hopes were raised of an end to the fast on Friday night itself.

The day was marked by hectic consultations within the government and between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress President Sonia Gandhi. In one of the meetings, the prime minister told his Cabinet colleagues that the problem somehow needed to be resolved at the earliest.

Though both sides talked tough in the morning, Hazare sent a draft to the government containing his demands and after discussions between Sibal and Hazare’s emissaries government sent a draft to the fasting leader.

The government draft conceded the demand for a joint committee that will have equal representation between civil society  representatives and ministers and other details of the draft agreement.

Hazare was agreeable to this but put a condition that there should be a co-chairman from the civil society side with five members from both sides and that it should be constituted through a notification and not  by a letter of the Law Ministry.

He agreed to be part of the committee to keep pressure on the government and for a minister to be chairman so that the “the cabinet will accept the recommendations (of the committee).”

Earlier, Swami Agnivesh had raised hopes of an end to the fast on Friday when he said “our mission as emissaries is over and Anna will make public his decision that will make you happy.”

Panel members

Members of the panel to draft Lokpal Bill: Pranab Mukherjee (chairman), Veerappa Moily, Kapil Sibal, P Chidambaram and  Salman Khurshid (members). Civil society members: Anna Hazare, eminent lawyers Shanti Bhushan, Prashant Bhushan, Karnataka Lokayukta Santosh Hegde and RTI activist Arvind Kejriwal. Shanti Bhushan will be co-chairman.

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