Anna slams Lokpal bill, vows fast from Aug 16 (Second Lead)

August 11th, 2011 - 12:29 am ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Aug 10 (IANS) Hardening its posture, Team Anna Hazare Wednesday told a parliamentary panel to recommend to the government to replace the Lokpal bill with a stronger anti-corruption draft legislation, or else the activist would go on an indefinite hunger-strike from Aug 16.

Hazare, along with RTI activist Arvind Kejriwal and senior lawyers Prashant Bhushan and Shanti Bhushan, met members of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on law and justice, personnel and public grievances in the evening. The meeting lasted for around two and a half hours.

At the meeting, Hazare asked the government to scrap the bill that was moved in parliament last week and to replace it with a stronger anti-corruption draft law that brings the prime minister within its ambit, a spokesperson for Team Anna said.

Hazare said the decision of the Parliamentary Standing Committee to study the Jan Lokpal bill along with the government legislation was a “good thing”, but made it clear that he would continue with his fast from Aug 16 if the panel did not take a decision by that date.

“My fast is against the government and not parliament,” he said.

Hazare slammed the Lokpal bill, saying it was only an eyewash. “The government’s Lokpal bill is only an eyewash, they have no intention to fight corruption,” he told reporters later.

“The bill is designed to deter complainants from making complaints against corruption. It is designed to harass NGOs which are raising voice against corruption in the government,” Prashant Bhushan said after the meeting.

The panel discussed the differences between the draft bill introduced in parliament and the one suggested by Team Hazare, but the meeting failed to break the deadlock.

“We are going through the draft Lokpal bill,” Abhishek Sanghvi, a spokesperson of Congress, told reporters after the meeting of the Parliamentary Standing Committee.

Rashtriya Janata Dal leader Lalu Yadav indicated that the standing committee is only considering the bill presented in parliament, and not the version submitted by Team Anna.

“Today’s (parliamentary) standing committee meeting is more of a formality because the bill presented by the government is not worth being discussed and it will only waste the time of parliament,” Kejriwal, a key member of Team Anna, told reporters.

The Lokpal bill, which was introduced in the Lok Sabha Aug 4, was sent to the parliamentary committee for its consideration. But this draft did not include several key suggestions made by Team Anna.

The panel had invited Hazare for the discussion in yet another bid to strike an understanding with civil society activists. The Lokpal bill provides for the establishment of the institution of Lokpal, or ombudsman, to fight corruption in public office.

The proposed bill does not bring under its purview the prime minister when he holds office. But once he demits office, he or she can be investigated for any wrongdoing as prime minister.

It also excludes from the Lokpal’s ambit the judiciary and any action of an MP in parliament or any parliamentary committee.

Meanwhile, Team Hazare has been granted a spot adjacent to the Firoz Shah Kotla Ground to hold its protest from Aug 16, Delhi Police said.

“Jayaprakash Narayan National Park near Firoz Shah Kotla Ground next to Shahidi Park has been offered subject to permission from land owning agency,” a Delhi Police statement said.

Delhi Police July 30 banned any gathering of five or more people under Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code (IPC) in New Delhi areas, including Jantar Mantar where Hazare sought to hold a fast from Aug 16 to press for a strong Lokpal bill.

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