Although the government walked the extra mile to sort out the lokpal issue, Anna Hazare’s team finally turned its back on Tuesday and merely “agreed to disagree” on the contentious clauses of the anti-graft bill.
The government’s latest draft exchanged with the civil society activists has significant improvements over last year’s draft, but it was promptly rejected by the civil society activists, with Hazare confirming another round of fast from August 16.Tuesday’s meeting was, in fact, the shortest — lasting only an hour — of the nine meetings the two sides have had so far. Finally, amid expressed annoyance and disappointment, it was decided to place two separate drafts before the all-party meeting to be convened in July.
Hazare said, “The government has no intention of bringing a strong lokpal bill… I will teach it a lesson and will go on fast from August 16.”
A senior minister said Team Hazare “seems to be demanding nothing short of the moon”.
Among the new features incorporated in the government draft is empowering of the 11-member lokpal to launch investigations into graft charges against public servants without seeking any sanction.
It also provides for separate wings for investigation and prosecution for the ombudsman and giving police-like powers to its investigating officers. The lokpal will be allowed to utilise the services of any officer and will have complete financial and administrative autonomy.
Hazare’s team, however, termed the new provisions “symbolic”, since the proposal to include the prime minister in the lokpal’s purview was dropped at the last minute. But the government hinted that a final decision may depend on the outcome of the all-party meet.
“At least, the previous draft had included the PM within the Lokpal’s ambit with some exceptions. In the latest draft, the government has even gone back on it,” said Arvind Kejriwal, a member of the Hazare team on the joint panel.
Kejriwal’s colleague, Prashant Bhushan, said the government’s draft showed that its attempts were largely symbolic. “I must say I am deeply disappointed by the model of lokpal proposed by the government.”
But the government side projected a positive picture. “Thirty-four of the 40 principles proposed by the civil society colleagues in their Jan Lokpal bill have been agreed to by the government,” said law minister Veerappa Moily.
Telecom minister Kapil Sibal said the government agreed to what was within the Constitution. “We cannot afford to have a parallel government to run this country…We want a strong lokpal bill which we had promised, but some checks and balances are required.”