Joint drafting of lokpal bill ends in bitterness

  • Nagendar Sharma, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
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  • Updated: Jun 16, 2011 02:26 IST

The first ever experiment by the government and civil society activists to function jointly on creating the lokpal institution ended in a bitter failure on Wednesday, with Anna Hazare’s team accusing the government of trying to “kill the lokpal even before its inception.”

After a two-and-a-half hour meeting, both sides conceded there was no unanimity even on the basic structure of the anti-graft ombudsman.
The only point of agreement was to meet for the last time on June 20 when the Hazare team and the government side may submit two separate drafts of the Jan Lokpal Bill. The government, however, said efforts would be made to bridge the “strong divergence” of views.

The talks on the drafting of the anti-graft lokpal bill by the 10-member joint panel, headed by the finance minister Pranab Mukherjee, resumed after a fortnight on Wednesday, but saw the already serious differences widen further, leading to a final rupture. “We will prepare a draft on the issues on which we think there is divergence and we will try and arrive at a consensus,” telecom minister and a member of the panel Kapil Sibal said.

Sibal said in case there was no consensus, a draft bill containing both the versions would be sent to the cabinet and the entire process would be completed before June 30.

Hazare's team was more forthcoming. Lawyer Prashant Bhushan, a member of the team, said, “Two drafts of the bill — one of the civil society and the other of the government — will be sent to the cabinet.”
Hazare's team said the government did not agree to either of their two proposals.

The first was about the structure of the lokpal institution. Though both sides agreed that it should be an 11-member body, Hazare's team insisted on arming it with investigative and administrative machinery.

"The government wants a lokpal on the lines of the Central Information Commission. We cannot agree to it," said Kejriwal.

The second issue was to empower the lokpal to probe graft charges against the government, doing away with the practice of conducting a departmental probe along with a CBI enquiry.


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