An all-party meeting called by the government on Sunday agreed to bringing a “strong and effective” lokpal bill in the monsoon session and maintaining the supremacy of Parliament but there was no consensus on the provisions of the bill, including whether the prime minister's office should be brought in its ambit.
Leaders across the political spectrum also lashed out a section of civil society who they alleged were out to subvert parliamentary democracy. They also lambasted the government for engaging in a dialogue with a section of civil society led by Anna Hazare while ignoring political parties in the entire process.After three hours, the meeting at Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's residence adopted a one-line resolution which said that the all-party meeting agreed that the government should bring before the next session of Parliament a strong and effective Lokpal Bill, following established procedures.
Opinion remained divided over the inclusion of the Prime Minister within the ambit of the lokpal but virtually everyone wanted the judiciary kept out of it.
The main Opposition BJP continued to keep its cards close to its chest while calling for a strong lokpal and a transparent exercise to choose the anti-corruption ombudsman.
The party, which had kept the government on tenterhooks on whether it would attend the meeting, refused to spell out its stand on whether the Prime Minister, higher judiciary or the conduct of MPs should be included in the ambit of the
“We have differences with the government's bill on the process of selection, jurisdiction and powers of the lokpal. But we did not elaborate on it because we will give our views in Parliament and the standing committee (that will vet the bill),” said the BJP's Sushma Swaraj.
The BJP's stand however gave the government a breather. While calling for a lokpal bill in the monsoon session, it said that the due process must be followed by sending it to the standing committee to get inputs from parties, states and stakeholders and that the bill be passed in the winter session.
Like the BJP, the BSP, the SP and JD-U did not go into the specifics of the bill.
Parties like the BJD, the AIADMK, Akali Dal and Telangana Rashtra Samithi were against inclusion of the PM in the bill. Those who favoured its inclusion included the TDP, the CPM, the INLD, the AGP and the Congress's UPA ally, the DMK.
Even those who favoured the PM's inclusion were against bringing the judiciary in the lokpal's ambit.
They argued for a strong judicial accountability commission to deal with cases of corruption in the judiciary. As for the conduct of MPs, many preferred to spell out their views when the bill is brought in Parliament.