Even as Team Anna members and the government continue to be on collision course, the parliamentary panel examining the Lokpal Bill has covered substantial ground and evolved consensus on several contentious issues. The committee is also expected to suggest several changes in the government's draft of the bill in order to achieve middle ground.
The substantive progress, which the committee led by Congress leader and Rajya Sabha member Abhishek Manu Singhvi has made, will also be noted for the unusually short period of time--just five weeks to listen to witnesses -- in which it has finished proceedings. The committee has now gone into internal deliberations and is expected to submit its report by the first week of December.Parliament's winter sessionbegins on November 22 and the PM has committed to passing the Lokpal Bill in the session. Singhvi is close to delivering the mandate of a "strong" bill within the deadline.
"Parliament in session is parliament on exhibition. Parliament in committees is parliament at work," Singhvi said, clarifying that the quote is borrowed. One may not agree given the acrimonious delays that have characterised the joint parliamentary committee (JPC) on telecom spectrum allocation and the public accounts committee (PAC).
Singhvi managed to get members of all parties to get things moving. First of all, he got all Congress members to meet finance minister Pranab Mukherjee to arrive at a unified position. These consultations were then extended to other parties, including opposition--something that won him accolades from opposition members too.
As a result, most of the sticking points among political parties and between the government and Team Anna may be moving towards a resolution. For instance, false and frivolous complaints for which heavy penalty - up to R2lakh and five years in prison - has been proposed in the government draft and opposed by activists and opposition parties. The committee, it has been learnt, has proposed that such complainants be proceeded against on lines similar to contempt of court proceedings that will make it reasonable and reduce chances of vindictiveness.
Though nothing is final yet, the question of citizens' charter - a key component of Team Anna's Jan Lokpal Bill - may remain unresolved in the ambit of the Lokpal debate. The Centre has already proposed a bill to address the issue. "The citizen charter is a subject matter of grievance redressal. If referred to the same committee through the ministry of personnel and public grievances, we will get to work on it with continuity," Singhvi said.