Is Team Anna serious about Lokpal bill, asks Sibal
Stating that the government is shocked at the comments made by veteran social activist Anna Hazare's team, Union Human Resource and Development Minister Kapil Sibal on Monday said steps as these would only slow down the drafting process of the Lokpal bill.
"The government is shocked at comments made by Team Anna. How can they call us cheats, liars and conspirators? Are they as serious? Steps as these will only delay the drafting of the Lokpal bill. The demand for live web cast of Lokpal meeting is irrelevant," said Sibal, while responding to the letter sent by Hazare's team to Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee.
Sibal further said the drafting of the Lokpal bill will take place as per schedule.
"With or without them, drafting will take place on time. The bill will be tabled in the monsoon session of Parliament," he added.
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Image: Union HRD Minister Kapil Sibal
'None abused government representatives'
Right to Information crusader Arvind Kejriwal, a key figure in Team Anna's campaign against corruption, however, termed the government's claim to be ridiculous, saying no one from Hazare's team abused government's representatives.
Civil society activists led by Hazare earlier in the day boycotted the meeting of the joint drafting committee on Lokpal bill, and wrote a letter to Pranab Mukherjee demanding the government to make its stand public on some of the key issues related to the anti-corruption legislation.
Image: Team Anna consisting of (from right) Arvind Kejriwal, Anna Hazare, Kiran Bedi and Swami Agnivesh
'Govt desires to practically leave everyone out of Lokpal ambit'
According to reports, Anna Hazare team laid out five demands major demands and added that government's intentions raised serious doubts about having a strong anti-corruption watchdog.
Prashant Bhushan, a member of the joint committee for drafting the Lokpal bill, after a meeting of the social activists, wrote a letter to Pranab Mukherjee, chairperson of the committee, saying the government desires to practically leave everyone out of Lokpal's ambit, horse trading of MPs, middle and lower bureaucracy judiciary.
Stating that the government is shying away from public debate, the letter says the government is not serious about holding public consultations with various stakeholders on various aspects of the Lokpal bill.
Image: Joint Lokpal bill drafting committee member Prashant Bhushan
'Crackdown on Ramdev strengthens our doubts'
Meanwhile, referring to the mid-night crackdown on Baba Ramdev and his followers, Bhushan said, "All these developments have raised doubts in our mind whether the government was at all interested in containing corruption and having a strong Lokpal bill. However, what happened on Saturday night in Ramlila Maidan has strengthened our doubts."
"All these developments have raised doubts about government's intention and so we are not attending today's meeting. The next meeting is scheduled on June 10. Hazare has prior engagements from June 9-11. So, we request rescheduling of that meeting," he added.
While waiting for government's response, Bhushan cautioned that time was running out and the committee was yet to finalise the basic principles behind the bill.
Image: Supporters of yoga guru Baba Ramdev scatter after tear gas canisters were thrown in by police at the Ramlila grounds on the second day of Ramdev's fast in New Delhi
Photographs: Adnan Abidi/Reuters