Lokpal panel: Round 1 goes to civil society

Lokpal panel: Round 1 goes to civil society

Lokpal panel: Round 1 goes to civil society









 The 10-member panel, in its two-hour meeting co-chaired by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and senior advocate Shanti Bhushan, decided to put up the draft Lokpal (ombudsman) Bill online to elicit views and suggestions from the general public, apart from talking to political parties on the structure and mandate of the law.

The panel also decided to meet every week beginning May 2 to ready the bill for introduction in the monsoon session of parliament.

"It has been an extremely historic event because we believe that the atmosphere in which discussions took place was extremely cordial and we hope to arrive at a consensus, and through the consensus a very strong Lokpal Bill will come which will purge corruption," Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal told reporters after the meeting.

The panel, with five members of the civil society and five union ministers, was formed a week ago following a fast-unto-death by social activist Anna Hazare that attracted nationwide empathy and support.

"It was an amiable meeting in which all the representatives and the government made some valuable contributions. Prashant Bhushan circulated the Jan Lokpal Bill and Shanti Bhushan explained its salient features. We also consulted on the procedures to be adopted in the coming weeks," Sibal said.

"There is an audio-recording of the proceedings and we have decided together to share whatever happened (in the meeting) with the public from time to time," he said.
The civil society earlier demanded that the proceedings should be videographed.
Sibal said there was unanimity on Prashant Bhushan's suggestion that there should be public consultation on the draft bill from time to time and that both sides agreed to have a strong bill prepared.

Prashant Bhushan said the committee decided to put the draft bill and committee proceedings online.

"It was also agreed that a strong and effective Lokpal is the need of the country and the bill is important because India has signed and will ratify the UN Convention against corruption. Lokpal has the right to investigate all public servants and to start prosecution proceedings against them," he said.

The modality of public consultation and basic principles of the bill would be discussed May 2, he added.

The civil society members have, in a new draft of the Jan Lokpal bill, amended the composition of the committee to select the ombudsman by including the prime minister and leader of the opposition in the Lok Sabha, along with two youngest judges of the Supreme Court, two youngest chief justices of the high courts, Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) and the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC).

The new draft also allowed for a five-member search committee comprising CAG, former CAGs, CEC and former CECs to empanel names of people to be put up before the Lokpal selection committee.

It also decreased the quantum of punishment for those found guilty of corruption to one year imprisonment instead of two years jail that was proposed earlier.

Even before the first meeting, the father-son duo of Shanti Bhushan and Prashant Bhushan had to fend off allegations Friday when a CD was circulated that reportedly contained conversations between Shanti Bhushan, Samajwadi Party (SP) chief Mulayam Singh Yadav and and former SP leader Amar Singh on "fixing a judge in Uttar Pradesh for a price".