A last-minute hitch on the status of the CBI in relation to the proposed lokpal on Monday delayed the government’s plans on the bill by a day, making extension of Parliament’s winter session a certainty.
The cabinet will now take up the bill on Tuesday afternoon and parliamentary affairs minister PK Bansal said it would be introduced in Parliament either on Wednesday or Thursday.
Bansal hinted that the session could be extended by three days from December 27-29 for discussion and passing the bill after a five-day Christmas break from December 22.
Law minister Salman Khurshid said the draft was almost final now. “We had instructions to clean up the draft and we have cleaned up the draft,” he said.
The day began with CBI director AP Singh meeting home minister P Chidambaram. Singh is learnt to have conveyed the investigative agency’s reservations over proposed changes in its existing structure.
By evening, the CBI’s efforts seemed to have paid off, with a group of ministers entrusted with finalisation of the draft bill by the Prime Minister making key changes to keep the CBI in good humour.
The CBI’s demand to retain primacy over investigation of cases has also found favour with the government, which proposes to keep the lokpal out of the process of probing graft cases.
Apart from Chidambaram, Khurshid, telecom minister Kapil Sibal and minister of state for personnel V Narayansamy, appeared to have favoured the CBI’s stand.
The government is ready to have an independent panel for the appointment of the CBI director, as demanded by major Opposition parties at the all-party meet last week. The selection panel now proposed by the government comprises the PM, leader of the Opposition and the Chief Justice of India in place of the lokpal chairperson.
The government is set to drop plans of having a separate directorate of prosecution for the CBI, a key demand of the Opposition. It remains to be seen how the Opposition reacts to these changes. Team Anna is also unlikely to be impressed with the draft.