Want strong, independent Lokpal: PM (Lead)

August 24th, 2011 - 8:03 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Aug 24 (IANS) Noting that recent developments had “raised issues related to the functioning of our parliamentary democracy”, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Wednesday said the government wanted to build a “strong and independent institution” to deal effectively with corruption.

“Our common objective is to build a strong and independent institution that will deal effectively with corruption, which is a major challenge that confronts our democracy and our nation,” the prime minister said in his opening remarks at an all-party meeting to discuss the Lokpal bill and the situation in the wake of the nine-day fast by Hazare here.

“Recent developments have raised issues, related to the functioning of our parliamentary democracy, that concern all of us,” the prime minister said.

Expressing concern over Hazare’s health, Manmohan Singh said: “The fast of Anna Hazareji and his failing health are a matter of concern to all of us.”

“Yesterday, I felt that I should take a personal initiative to appeal to Anna Hazareji to end his fast so that we may work together in a spirit of cooperative engagement to bring into existence a strong Lokpal,” he added.

Manmohan Singh said Team Anna wants its Jan Lokpal bill “with some changes” to be introduced in parliament within four days and passed in the ongoing monsoon session, which is scheduled to conclude Sep 8.

“Broadly their position is that the the government should withdraw the Lokpal bill
(introduced in parliament Aug 4), the Jan Lokpal bill (drafted by the civil society) should be introduced with some changes within four days and be discussed and passed during this session of the parliament by extending it if necessary,” Manmohan Singh said.

“If a written commitment can be given with timelines, then the representatives (of Team Anna) said they can hopefully persuade Annaji (Hazare) to stop his fast. I will ask Pranabji (Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee) to brief us later in more detail on what transpired in the meeting (between him and the civil society leaders Tuesday),” Manmohan Singh added.

In this context, the prime minister pointed out that in his letter to Hazare Tuesday, he had “reiterated government’s intention to pass the best possible Lokpal legislation with inputs from civil society and on the basis of the broadest possible consensus”.

“I said that the matter was with the standing committee and the committee was entitled to consider not only the bill introduced by the government but the Jan Lokpal bill and other versions,” he said. Rights activist Aruna Roy and her group have also prepared a version of the Lokpal bill.

The prime minister also said the government was prepared to request the Lok Sabha speaker to formally refer the Jan Lokpal bill also to the standing committee “for their holistic consideration along with everything else”.

“I also said that the government can formally request the standing committee to fast-track their deliberations to the extent reasonably feasible, subject to its discretion and the necessity to reflect deeply and spend adequate time on such an important bill,” Manmohan Singh added.

Senior ministers, including Pranab Mukherjee (finance), A.K. Antony (defence), P. Chidambaram (home) and Kapil Sibal (human resource evelopment), also represented the government at the meeting held at the prime minister’s residence.

Besides, United Progressive Alliance (UPA) constituents like ministers Sharad Pawar (Nationalist Congress Party) and Farooq Abdullah (National Congress) also participated.

Top opposition leaders such as L.K. Advani, Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley (Bharatiya Janata Party), Sharad Yadav (Janata Dal-United), Sitaram Yechury (CPI-M) and Manohar Joshi (Shiv Sena) attended the meeting.

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