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Lokpal meet ends in failure; Anna will fast from Aug 16

Government and civil society exercise to work out an agreed draft of the lokpal bill ended in failure tonight after which Anna Hazare announced that he will go ahead with his fast from August 16 to "teach the government a lesson". Full text: Lokpal bill draft | Lokpal meetings: The story so far

delhi Updated: Jun 21, 2011 23:10 IST

Government and civil society exercise to work out an agreed draft of the lokpal bill ended in failure tonight after which Anna Hazare announced that he will go ahead with his fast from August 16 to "teach the government a lesson".

After nine meetings spread over two months, the joint drafting committee of the two sides concluded its deliberations on a note of disagreement with the government asserting that it could not allow creation of a parallel structure which would be "answerable to nobody".

The government draft ruled out scrutiny of Prime Minister, higher judiciary and the conduct of MPs in Parliament by the Lokpal.

However, the government draft proposes several critical powers conferring quasi-judicial status to Lokpal besides powers to attach assets, independent prosecution and investigation machinery with full police powers under the proposed ombudsman.

After acrimonious meetings, the last two meetings were cordial and both sides "agreed to disagree".

Law Minister M Veerappa Moily said the mandate of the committee was to prepare a lokpal bill and not to rewrite Constitution.

While government claimed that discussions with civil society have helped to bring out a "strong and robust" bill, the Hazare camp expressed "deep disappointment" with the government draft.

"The government has no intention to bring a strong lokpal bill. It is misleading the people. Now, there is no option but to go on fast from August 16 as announced earlier," Hazare told reporters after the meeting.

"People will teach them (government) a lesson," he said adding his agitation will be against the government and not Parliament as contended by Union Minister Salman Khurshid.

The Hazare camp said major differences persisted with government rejecting all their major demands like inclusion of Prime Minister, higher judiciary, MPs' acts inside Parliament under the ambit of Lokpal and procedure for selection and removal of the ombudsman.

The various proposals in the government draft include powers to take suo motu cognizance of act of corruption, powers to investigate cases against officials above Joint Secretary rank, recommend transfer and suspension during the course of probe and provision for time-bound trial by special courts.

The government draft does away with provision for securing sanction for prosecuting a public servant.

After days of confabulations, government and Hazare team failed to reach a consensus on eight issues. The government draft provides for Lokpal's jurisdiction over Union ministers other than Prime Minister and MPs. It specifically bars any enquiry into matters relating to any allegation of corruption against MPs in respect of anything said or vote given by them in Parliament.

The ministers explained that Lokpal jurisdiction over MPs' conduct inside Parliament would be a violation of the immunity provided to them in the Constitution.

"Prime Minister is still covered under the Prevention of Corruption Act and he does not enjoy any immunity. The CBI can still probe him. Only thing is that we are not giving this power to the Lokpal," HRD Minister Kapil Sibal said.

Water Resources Minister Salman Khurshid said the government side decided that they draw a line at a particular point and excluded Prime Minister as he is the "lynchpin" of Parliamentary system.

"What we have done is an honest effort to provide a corruption free society...we departed from the standard procedure of drafting a legislation" he said indicating to the involvement of the civil society.

The ministers said that the bill proposed by the government was the "strongest ever" to fight corruption.

Sibal said, "we cannot afford to have a parallel system. There has to be checks and balances. We want the Lokpal to be independent and strong but there should be some checks and balances.

"Who will provide that?...Can we have a parallel police outside executive? Can we have a parallel police state outside government? This is the question before the poeple of India...We cannot afford to have a parallel government," he said.

First Published: Jun 21, 2011 17:38 IST