Civil society activists and the government on Saturday took a crucial forward in their attempt to break a four-decade-old jinx of turning the anti-corruption Lokpal Bill into law in their first joint meeting.
The friction between the government and activists after Anna Hazare’s hunger strike over the bill was missing. Saturday's meeting was marked by flexibility shown by both sides.Civil society activists didn't insist that their draft be the base for initiating talks and the government hinted at an updated version of the Jan Lokpal Bill circulated by them could be worked upon further to arrive at a consensus, among other things.
Both sides appeared broadly satisfied with the outcome of the first meeting.
"It is a historic step forward and the meeting took place in a very cordial atmosphere," telecom minister and member of the joint committee Kapil Sibal said.
In their new proposal, the activists want a three-tier selection process for the appointment of a chairperson and 10 members of the Lokpal institution.
In the latest draft, the Prime Minister and the leader of the opposition in Lok Sabha have replaced the Rajya Sabha chairman and the LS Speaker in the selection panel.
To address concerns over bringing Supreme Court and high court judges under the Lokpal, Hazare's team have proposed that complaint against judges will first be screened by a Lokpal member.
A seven-member Lokpal bench will decide on any action after the post-screening report, the new draft says.
“Both the government and the civil society activists are keen that the new bill should be introduced in the monsoon session,” Sibal said.
The government, however, declined to videotape meeting, as demanded by Hazare.
During the 90-minute meeting, there was no mention of the CD allegedly containing a conversation between Shanti Bhushan, the panel’s co-chairman and Samajwadi Party president Mulayam Singh Yadav and his former aide Amar Singh.
Lawyer Prashant Bhushan said it has been agreed to hold weekly meetings after May 2 and both sides were confident of meeting the June 30 deadline to finalise the draft.