Ahead of June 30 deadline, uncertainty continues over Lokpal bill

June 25th, 2011 - 8:22 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan Singh New Delhi, June 25 (IANS) With a few days left before the June 30 deadline for finalising the Lokpal bill, uncertainty continues over the fate of the much-awaited anti-graft legislation.

Despite Law Minister M. Veerappa Moily Friday releasing a comparative draft of the Lokpal bill, prepared by the five ministers and with a note on the reservations expressed by the civil society members, the differences over some key provisions remained.

The government has set June 30 deadline for finalising the bill. It has called for an all-party meeting July 3 to discuss the draft of the contentious legislation.

The draft bill will then be sent to the cabinet, the bill will be prepared by the concerned ministries and then introduced in parliament in the monsoon session beginning Aug 1.

Signalling a toughening of stand against the civil society, most members of the Congress Working Committee, which met Friday, asked the government not to “tolerate pressure tactics by a few self-styled persons in the name of civil society”.

The meeting was attended by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Congress president Sonia Gandhi, senior ministers, Gandhi family scion Rahul Gandhi and other leaders.

There were ‘polititicising signals’ on the other side too, as civil society leaders Arvind Kejriwal and Kiran Bedi met senior BJP leader L.K. Advani Friday seeking his party’s support for the civil society version of the bill - the Jan Lokpal bill.

“The differences between the government and the civil society versions are widening, instead of bridging,” said Balji Sharma, a political analyst. “Sometimes, the bill will be caught in a political battle between the two sides,” he added.

Moily, while releasing the comparative draft, said Friday that the “government has not commenced drafting of the Lokpal bill”. But his note highlighted the government’s proposals, giving an impression that those would be the preferred points.

Commenting on the Lokpal joint drafting committee - led by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and comprising four other ministers and five representatives of the civil society including reformer Anna Hazare - Moily said the panel was a “non-statutory committee”.

He criticised the civil society and said: “They have changed their views many a times. It is difficult to say where they stand.”

Asked about the minister’s remarks, civil society representative Swami Agnivesh told IANS: “The government criticism will not demoralise Anna, his supporters and the public.”

“Tansparency is an idea whose time has come in India. None, howsoever powerful, will be able to stop it, but may be able to delay it for some time,” he added.

He said the government’s “strategy to provoke political parties against the civil society will not succeed much”.

The joint drafting committee, constituted after a five-day fast by Hazare in New Delhi in April, has held nine meetings, but could not reach a consensus.

The major points of difference include the civil society demands for bringing the prime minister, the Central Bureau of Investigation and the higher judiciary and the parliamentarians under the purview of the bill - which is opposed by the government.

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