Govt, Hazare lock horns

Govt, Hazare lock horns

Centre opposes bringing PM, judiciary in Lokpal ambit

Govt, Hazare lock horns

“Today’s meeting was quite disastrous,” a statement issued by the civil society movement said after Monday’s meeting.

“Definitely, the government’s intentions are suspect. Please prepare yourself for the next huge movement in the country,” it added, while giving details of the demands made and the government’s rejection of them.

The strong statement came after the activists led by Anna Hazare, who are members of the Joint Drafting Committee on the Bill, accused the government of being “hostile” and showing “immensely negative attitude” to their suggestions.

“ I am not hopeful of the government meeting its deadline of June 30 for drafting the Bill,” a seemingly dejected Hazare told reporters after the three-hour meeting of the 10-member drafting committee that includes five ministers in the UPA government.

The government also rejected other important proposals put forward by the civil society members on the committee including the merger of the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) with Lokpal. The government did not yield either on the proposal to bring officers below the rank of joint secretaries under the purview of the Lokpal.

As most of their proposals at Monday’s meetings were rejected, the civil society members threatened to take to the streets again.

“We will try our best to persuade the government to a strong and effective Lokpal Bill. But if the government disagrees, we should be ready to taking to streets,” the statement by the civil society movement said.

The government, on its part, tried to play down the differences among the committee members with Union Human Resource Development Minister, one of the government members on the committee, saying the government was “constructively looking at issues of divergence” and stressed that the government was committed to provide people an effective Lokpal.

“The guiding principle is that the Constitution is supreme.  Any Lokpall Bill must be consistent with the provisions of the Constitution,” said Sibal. The government said it would write to the states and political parties seeking their opinion on some of the proposals of the civil society before June 6, when the committee meets again. Sibal said the government remained committed to provide the people an effective Lokpal.

The civil society members were particularly incensed at the government’s volte face on including the PM in the ambit of the ombudsman since the provision was very much part of the original draft of the Lokpal Bill.

Arvind Kejriwal and Prashant Bhushan, both civil society members on the committee, reacted sharply to the government going back on its promises.

“The government’s stand at the meeting on Monday is worse than what it had proposed in its first Bill, which has been condemned and rejected. Even the latest draft Bill of the government has kept PM under the purview of Lokpal but it has gone back on it,” Kejriwal said.

As regards including the judiciary in the Bill, he said: “The government wants ‘self regulation’ on the issue of higher judiciary and acts of MPs inside Parliament. We told them that self regulation has not worked in the last 60 years.”

Bhushan said: “the response of the government was not very reasonable. We are a bit disappointed by the response of the ministers. This whole concept of self-regulation does not work. Except on one issue of keeping citizen charter and public grievances under the jurisdiction of Lokpal, the government opposed all the demands.”

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