Faced with the difficult task of finalising one of the most keenly watched bills in decades, top ministers and officials continued to burn the midnight oil to come out with an acceptable draft of the lokpal bill.
After the cabinet meeting on Sunday evening, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was closeted with finance minister Pranab Mukherjee, home minister P Chidambaram, telecom minister Kapil Sibal, law minister Salman Khurshid and minister of state for personnel V Narayanasamy, and top officials to give final shape to the bill.
The government is preparing for all eventualities — it hopes to re-introduce the bill in Parliament on Tuesday if events go according to its script, following the likely clearance of the bill by the cabinet on Monday evening.
However, if there are delays, the government is prepared to extend the ongoing winter session — scheduled to end on Thursday — first by a day, and if required any further, to offer to the Opposition the dates between December 27-29 to get the bill passed and prevent Anna Hazare from going on fast.
With an in-principle consensus emerging between the government and the Opposition on some of the contentious issues like bringing the prime minister (with heavy safeguards) and lower bureaucracy within the lokpal’s ambit, the focus has now shifted to the tricky issue of the CBI.
The government is willing to change the existing procedure for the appointment of the CBI director and other top officials. It is also ready to allow the lokpal’s supervision over graft cases to be handed over by the watchdog to the investigative agency.
It is, however, not willing to part with administrative control of the CBI.
This is exactly where sharp differences have emerged between the government and the Opposition.
As a possible middle path, the government appears willing to concede the BJP’s demand for separate investigation and prosecution wings for the CBI.
Creation of an independent directorate of prosecution looks a certainty, which has been recommended by several parliamentary committees.
The proposal for an independent directorate of prosecution by the law ministry in 2007, is pending with the government and it is likely to revive it.
Officials say that by doing so, the government will also put an end to criticism that it has not yet implemented the 1997 judgment of the Supreme Court in the hawala case, in which the apex court had asked for an independent directorate.