Party over Lokpal bill is all but over

Party over Lokpal bill is all but over

Civil society members, ministers trade charges

Party over Lokpal bill is all but over

Gandhian Anna Hazare charged that the governm­ent was playing “tricks” and announced a fast from August 16 if a diluted bill is introduced in Parliament.

Both sides held press conferences Thursday to buttress their respective points even as the government clarified that there would be only one draft of the bill to be sent to the Cabinet and not two separate ones as was anounced after the meeting of the joint bill drafting committee on Wednesday.

Taking the attack to the government yet again, Hazare said: “They (government) have wasted our time. We had our draft ready earlier and they too had theirs. Then why did they not bring this to the Cabinet earlier? The government is playing tricks. It has backtracked.”

As the government fielded ministers P Chidambaram, Kapil Sibal and Salman Khursheed to address the media – Law Minister Veerappa Moily had spoken to journalists earlier – Hazare said: “If they bring a weak bill, certainly we will have to go back to agitation. It appears that the government is going back on its promises. We may have to revive our Jantar Mantar agitation which was stopped for sometime”.

Outstanding issues

While Chidambaram ridic­uled Hazare saying that “nowhere in the world is a bill drafted by fasting”, Moily said there were six outstanding issues while 34 were agreed upon.
Some of the points of dispute include: the inclusion of the prime minister and the higher judiciary in Lokpal, the role of MPs inside Parliament, whe­ther a single Act will govern the Lokpal and the Lokayukta, whether officials be subjected to disciplinary action by the Lokpal/Lokayukta and what should be the definition of Lokpal.

As Hazare and his team lashed out at the government, the Centre refused to yield, saying it cannot allow creation of a “parallel” structure.

As both sides hardened their positions, the government made it clear that it would come out with a "strong and sound" draft of the Lokpal bill by June 30 irrespective of whether civil society activists cooperate. The next meeting of the bill drafting committee will take place on June 20.

Sibal, sore over the attitude of the non-official members of the committee, said: “You have to either negotiate or threaten. You cannot do both. This is not the way forward...The government is not going to get diverted by abuses and slander.”
Stressing that two drafts would not be sent to the Cabinet, Moily said wherever there were points of differences, the draft bill would contain both versions and the Cabinet would take a final decision.

Accusing the civil society representatives of "changing their stand" often, Moily said "it will not help”. He said the claims of some members of the civil society of differences in broad areas "falls flat on the ground as out of 40 principles laid down by civil society, we have convergence on 34."

He claimed that the committee cannot suggest issues like inclusion of the higher judiciary, the conduct of MPs inside Parliament and summary dismissal of government servants which entailed constitutional amendments.“After every meeting they go out on campaign to get views of others...The civil society members produce something out of their pocket. On the other hand we (government) have put the agenda and other related documents on our website,” he said. The day also saw Sibal and AICC general secretary Digvijay Singh calling on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to discuss developments involving the Lokpal bill.

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