Joint panel meets with no hope of agreement

Lokayukta Justice Hegde to skip meeting today

Civil Society member Justice Santosh Hegde will not be attending the meeting. With the government expected to defend its stance and the civil society team-led by Anna Hazare too refusing to budge, the meeting is unlikely to break ice. Both the teams would present their viewpoints on the contentious issues which would be forwarded to the cabinet.

The sides have also been sparring over the basic structure of Lokpal with Civil Society members insisting multi-structured body against the government’s proposal to have a smaller one.

Members of the panel belonging to the government met on Sunday at the North Block to finalise their draft. The meeting was chaired by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee.
Stalemate over crucial issues prevails between the government and civil society representatives, with the HRD Minister Kapil Sibal spelling out the government’s stance clearly.

“The opinion within the government is that prime minister should not be included in the ambit of Lokpal. Once the prime minister demits office, he should not be exonerated from prosecution,” Sibal said.

“There is no reason whatsoever to exclude the prime minister. The arguments given seems to suggest that if the prime minister was subjected to anti-corruption investigation then he would become dysfunctional,” civil society member of the committee Prashant Bhushan countered. He said it was absurd that the PM can be investigated by the CBI, which is under his control, but not an independent agency like Lokpal.

Co-chairman of the Committee Shanti Bhushan along with his son Prashant Bhushan has been strongly pleading for this inclusion on the ground that the United Nation Convention Against Corruption, of which India is a signatory, also calls for a similar arrangement.

Meanwhile, an all party meeting to seek views of the political parties on inclusion of the Prime Minister under the Lokpal Bill is likely to be held in the first week of July. The meeting is expected to be convened soon after June 30.

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