Civil society representatives led by Anna Hazare on Monday petitioned finance minister and chairman of the Lokpal Bill joint drafting committee Pranab Mukherjee, on growing differences within the panel even as they boycotted its meeting, setting off a war of words with the government.
Dubbing the demands made by the Hazare team in its petition “extraneous,” HRD and telecom minister Kapil Sibal made it clear that the government would no longer go out of its way to cajole them not to boycott the panel meetings.
“We are committed to completing the draft Lokpal Bill by June 30 and will present it in the monsoon session of Parliament. With or without them, drafting will take place in time,” Sibal said.
Sibal’s response came after the petition — written by Prashant Bhushan on behalf of the Hazare team — argued that the government wanted to dilute the impact of the Lokpal Bill, to explain their decision to boycott Monday’s meet.
The government wanted to leave the Prime Minister, horse trading of MPs, middle and lower bureaucracy and judiciary out of the ambit of the Lokpal Bill, the petition said, arguing that there were different views between the government and the Hazare team even on the vision of the Lokpal.
The petition also questioned the post-midnight eviction of Baba Ramdev and his supporters from the Ramlila grounds. The petition demanded that the proceedings of the Lokpal Bill drafting panel’s meetings be televised — a demand Sibal called “irrelevant.”
Sibal argued that the Hazare team’s behaviour — including their decision to boycott the Monday meeting — was only hurting efforts at drafting the bill.
The government also slammed the Hazare group for their alleged comments terming government representatives cheats and conspirators. “How can they call us cheats, liars and conspirators? We have never made such comments. We reject these allegations .... This is unacceptable,” Sibal said.
The government, he said, had sought comments on the Lokpal Bill from state governments and other stakeholders. The BSP had called the drafting process inconsistent with parliamentary procedures, Sibal said.
The Hazare team also applied for permission to fast at Jantar Mantar on June 8 in protest against the eviction of Ramdev.
‘More than 6 issues to be considered’
Meanwhile, CPM general secretary Prakash Karat has urged the Centre to prepare a draft Lokpal legislation so that the party can express its views, as the issues under consideration are not confined to the six questions raised by the government.
In a letter to finance minister Pranab Mukherjee, Karat said, the issues were not confined to the six questions posed to political parties.
“Our party has definite views on the nature and scope of the Lokpal authority to be set-up. The issues that need to be considered are not necessarily confined to the six questions which you have posed to be answered in yes or no terms,” Karat wrote.
Then he suggested that the government prepare a draft of the Lokpal legislation on which his party will be able to give its views.
“You can seek our views before it is presented in Parliament. If that is not possible we shall certainly express our views on the draft through the parliamentary procedures,” Karat said in the letter.