Lokpal panel winds up in failure; Hazare to fast from Aug 16

first_imgGandhian Anna Hazare has threatened to go on yet another fast-unto-death against the government’s “intransigence” on the contentious Lokpal legislation. He announced his decision to go on an indefinite fast after the failure of the final round of talks on the draft Bill on Tuesday.Stepping up his attack soon after the meeting with the government panel, Anna said he would go on a fast from August 16 as the government had ” no intention” of drafting a strong Lokpal Bill. He said protest was the only option left. (READ GOVT DRAFT OF LOKPAL BILL)”We have been saying the government is not serious on the Lokpal Bill. We are sure the people will teach them a lesson,” Hazare said.Sensing the mood of the activists, the UPA government gathered its flock to muster support on the draft Bill. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh convened a meeting of UPA leaders late in the evening in an apparent bid to show unity of the ruling alliance on the issue. (READ CIVIL SOCIETY DRAFT OF LOKPAL BILL)Sources said finance minister Pranab Mukherjee briefed the leaders on the two drafts and told them that he would hold consultations with all other parties too. The allies backed the government.Besides the PM, present at the meeting were UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, defence minister A. K. Antony, political secretary to Sonia, Ahmed Patel, Trinamool chief Mamata Banerjee, NCP’s Praful Patel, DMK leader T. R. Baalu, National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah and IUML leader E. Ahmed. Sulking DMK patriarch M. Karunanidhi, who was in Delhi to meet his jailed daughter Kanimozhi, stayed away.advertisementThe ninth and last meeting of the Lokpal Bill drafting committee ended with both sides differing on at least six key features. The government made it clear that two drafts of the Bill, one prepared by the government and the other by activists, will be circulated to all political parties.After taking the views of political parties, a single Bill, comprising both the views, will be presented to the Cabinet. The government proposes to call an all-party meeting in July.Just before the meeting, Trinamool chief and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee voiced her strong support for the government stand. In fact, Banerjee went a step further to give a certificate of recommendation to the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. One of the most contested clauses during the discussions on the Lokpal is the inclusion of the prime minister in its ambit. The government is resisting PM’s inclusion, while the civil society is pressing for it.”I know the PM is an honest man,” Banerjee said at the Press Club in the Capital. “Do you think the inclusion of one person will strengthen the fight against corruption? Whether the PM or the chief justice is included, it hardly matters. To fight corruption we need a larger systemic change,” she said.The government has also postponed the monsoon session in order to arrive at a political consensus on the legislation. The session is usually held in the third week of July but now it is scheduled to begin on August 1.The civil society members maintained that they were “most disappointed” at the outcome of the drafting committee’s meetings but added that the government did agree to make major changes in their views on the Bill. HRD minister Kapil Sibal said the talks could not resolve key differences.One of the key issues, bringing the Prime Minister under the Lokpal’s purview, came up during Tuesday’s discussion as well. While the government opposed the clause, activists maintained that the Bill will be complete only if the PM and his office are also brought under the Bill’s purview. Both the sides also disagreed on issues like the appointment of Lokpal, integrating CBI and vigilance into Lokpal, bringing higher judiciary, lower bureaucracy and MPs in the Lokpal’s ambit.HRD minister Kapil Sibal said the government fears that the Lokpal can be a “parallel authority” if certain views of the activists were accepted. He maintained that the government is committed to table the Bill in the upcoming monsoon session of Parliament. “We want to have a strong Lokpal bill but there need to be checks and balances. We can’t afford to have a parallel government,” he said.Sibal said the inclusion of PM in the Bill’s ambit was the major stumbling block. “The PM is the lynchpin of parliamentary democracy. We want to protect prospective PM and the institution of the Prime Minister,” he said. If the Lokpal starts issuing notice to the PM, “given the situation when we are in a neighbourhood which is extremely sensitive, anything can happen anytime,” he said.advertisementStating that the discussions with Team Anna were constructive, Sibal said the government has made changes in the initial draft. He said the government proposes to give Lokpal quasijudicial powers, provision for time-bound trial and police powers to its investigating officers. However, he said the government cannot allow a parallel investigation agency that will be answerable to nobody.After the meeting, Sibal said the Cabinet will take up the Bill after discussions with political parties. “They gave their draft, we gave our draft and there was a short discussion. However, on important issues there was no agreement. The views of political parties have been sought on six issues,” he said.Leaving scope for more discussions, Sibal said activists can comment on the government’s Bill within three days.”We agreed to disagree. But we hope that differences can be resolved. If they wish to give comments on our drafts, they can do so,” Sibal said.The activists, however, were far from impressed. “The government draft which was unveiled at the meeting excludes the Prime Minister,” Arvind Kejriwal, a member of the panel, said. “I am deeply disappointed by the government’s model of Lokpal,” said another member Prashant Bhushan.The drafting committee was formed on April 9. The panel is co-chaired by Union finance minister Pranab Mukherjee and Supreme Court lawyer Shanti Bhushan. Five key ministers, Kapil Sibal, Salman Khurshid, M. Veerappa Moily and P Chidambaram, represented the government on the panel. Anna Hazare, Prashant Bhushan, Arvind Kejriwal and Santosh Hegde represented the activists.For more news on India, click here.For more news on Business, click here.For more news on Movies, click here.For more news on Sports, click here.last_img

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