Lokpal panel agrees to speed up bill drafting process

Lokpal panel agrees to speed up bill drafting process

Emerging from a three-hour meeting, Union Minister Kapil Sibal expressed confidence draft Lokpal Bill would be ready by June 30, as announced in a government notification, in time for introduction in the Monsoon session of Parliament.

The meeting chaired by Finance Minister Mukherjee took place in the backdrop of co-chairman Shanti Bhushan raising the issue of slow progress on drafting the bill and expressing doubts whether the June 30 deadline would be met.

He said that there was consensus on almost half of the 40 points brought to the table by the Anna Hazare's five-member team and the discussion on the same would continue when the Joint Drafting Committee meets again on May 30.

Bringing the higher judiciary and the Prime Minister within the ambit of the Lokpal were still sticking points and discussion on the same is expected to be taken up at the next meeting.

Hazare's team today presented a set of suggestions from some other civil society groups on the Lokpal Bill which also included recommendations of the public hearings on the issue held at various places across the country.

Sibal said that suggestions from other civil activists on the bill were welcome.

He said there was complete agreement on the issue of the authority of Lokpal being independent without any interference from the government.

Sibal said the Committee also decided to meet more frequently -- at least once a week, with more meetings if required.

The minister said that there was also an agreement in the meeting that the Lokpal will have power to look into any matter of corruption against public servants.

With agreement on nearly 50 per cent of the basic principles, the Committee decided to direct the Legislative Department to begin drafting the Lokpal Bill.

Prominent lawyer Prashant Bhushan said there was agreement on many issues raised by the civil society members and on some other issues the government had conveyed its "in-principle" acceptance but wanted more discussions on finer aspects.

He said though the basic principles of the powers of Lokpal bill were "non-negotiable", the civil society members were "open for discussion" on details details of the Bill.

"The basic idea is to have an empowered Lokpal, which will have full autonomy, independence from the government and which will have powers to investigate complaints of corruption, prosecute all public servants. This principle is non-negotiable," he said
"But so far as the details of the bill are concerned, most of it is certainly available for discussions and any amendments are open for discussion," Bhushan said.

Kejriwal said that the government has "so far not rejected" any principle. It has agreed to some principles totally, to some partially and said more discussions are needed on some of them, he said.