PM promises Lokpal bill in monsoon session (Lead)

July 3rd, 2011 - 9:22 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan Singh New Delhi, July 3 (IANS) Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Sunday affirmed his government’s commitment to the Lokpal bill to provide for a strong institutional arrangement to tackle “corruption in high places” and said the legislation will be brought in the monsoon session of parliament.

In his opening remarks at the all-party meeting on Lokpal bill at his residence, the prime minister said his government was keen on widest possible consensus regarding the Lokpal bill.

“I must make it clear at the outset that we, in government, are committed to the enactment of a Lokpal Act, which provides for a strong, effective and quick institutional arrangement for tackling corruption in high places. We are also committed to bringing the bill before parliament in the coming monsoon session,” Manmohan Singh said. The session begins August 1.

The all-party meeting at the prime minister’s residence here was attended by Congress president Sonia Gandhi, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, Home Minister P. Chidambaram, Law Minister M. Veerapa Moily, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders L.K. Advani, Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley and Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) leader Sitaram Yechury, among others.

Leaders of Janata Dal-United, Bahujan Samaj Party, Samajwadi Party, DMK, AIADMK, Rashtriya Janata Dal and Telugu Desam Party also attended the meeting.

The prime minister said the institution of Lokpal has to add to and not detract from the legitimate role and authority of other institutions in the country’s democratic structure and it has to find an appropriate place in the matrix of checks and balances provided in the constitution.

The prime minister said that along with a good law, there was need to focus on simplifying procedures, reducing discretion, eliminating arbitrariness and increasing transparency in the working of the government.

Manmohan Singh said the issue of enacting a strong Lokpal bill has attracted a lot of attention during the past few months and the joint drafting committee, having representatives nominated by civil society activist Anna Hazare and five union ministers, held nine meetings.

“While considerable progress was achieved in evolving a consensus on many issues, a few important issues remain on which there is a divergence in our views and those of the nominees of shri Anna Hazare,” he said, adding that papers circulated to the leaders at the meeting had brought these issues.

The joint drafting committee was formed by the government after Hazare went on a marathon fast in April that attracted groundswell support.

Agreeing that corruption was “a major issue today,” the prime minister said the country had legal and institutional arrangements in place to tackle the problem but there was a feeling that these were strong enough to ensure that those occupying high positions were brought to book swiftly.

“In fact, we have a number of laws like the Prevention of Corruption Act, the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, the Central Vigilance Commission Act, the Right to Information Act etc. which empower citizens to have access to information and which provide for stringent action against delinquents.

“However, there is a feeling that the institutional arrangements in place are not strong enough to ensure that the guilty, especially those occupying high positions, are brought to book swiftly and given deterrent punishment,” Manmohan Singh said.

He said there should be widest possible consensus regarding the Lokpal bill and the all-party meeting had been convened in this background.

“We are looking forward to a free and frank discussion on contentious issues so that your valuable views could be taken into account while presenting a suitable bill in parliament,” he said.

He said the arrangement proposed for the Lokpal should be for the larger good of the society and the country.

“The institution of the Lokpal has to work in harmony with other institutions and laws and it has to function within the framework of the basic structure of our constitution,” he said.

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