Lokpal Bill: Hazare's team, ministers sing different tunes
After an acrimonious meeting last week, the joint drafting committee on the Lokpal Bill on Monday agreed on most of the issues, but new areas of disagreement like the manner of selection and removal of the ombudsman came up, adding to persisting differences on contentious aspects.
Both government's representatives and Anna Hazare's team said the three-hour-long meeting was held in a "very cordial atmosphere" but differed on the extent of its success.
With inputs from Onkar Singh
Image: A poster against corruption
'80 to 85 per cent issues resolved'
The committee will meet again on Tuesday for the last time during which both sides will exchange their drafts.
Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal told reporters that 80 to 85 per cent issues were resolved while activists Arvind Kejriwal and Prashant Bhushan differed on this percentage but contended that there was consensus on majority of the issues.
Image: A file photo of Anna Hazare
'It is a major step forward'
"On a range of issues, there is a broad agreement. It is a major step forward. Both sides feel we should move towards a consensus to formulate a draft where difficult issues of divergence are spelt out when it goes to political parties sometime in July," Sibal said.
On the basis of this, a strong Lokpal Bill can be drafted and sent to the Cabinet so that it can be introduced in Parliament in the monsoon session.
"There is agreement on 80 to 85 per cent of issues," Sibal said.
Image: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh
Two new issues of divergence
Immediately after, Bhushan said the agreement was on minor issues and differences persisted on contentious issues like bringing under Lokpal the post of prime minister, higher judiciary and the conduct of MPs inside Parliament.
He said "two new issues" of divergence came up. These relate to the constitution of the selection panel and procedure for the removal of the Lokpal.
Image: Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal
'In their committee, there are more politicians'
Hazare also said that the meeting was "good" but left it to Bhushan and other associates to give details.
Explaining the new issues that came up, Bhushan said, "According to the government version, the appointment committee is filled with politicians and government officials. Our bill has the provision for an independent, broad-based committee like the Chief Election Commissioner."
The government version proposes that the selection committee should comprise the prime minister, the speaker, leaders of both Houses of Parliament, Leaders of Opposition of both Houses, the Lok Sabha Speaker, the home minister, the Cabinet secretary, a Supreme Court judge and a high court chief justice, Kejriwal said.
"In their committee, there are more politicians," he said and questioned this move, contending that the appointment of Lokpal will be then under their direct control although they would be the ones against whom the ombudsman would be conducting investigations at some stage.
Image: A protest against corruption
'New areas of differences'
On the removal procedure of the Lokpal, Bhushan said the government position was that only it can approach the Supreme Court in this regard while the civil society insisted that "anyone" could move the apex court for the purpose.
"These are new areas of differences which came up," he said.
Kejriwal said the government circulated an exhaustive note which detailed the areas of agreement and disagreement. He said out of the 40 issues raised by Hazare's team, the government had agreed on 11.
"The issue of bringing the post of prime minister under the purview of Lokpal was not discussed today," he said about the meeting which was not attended by Justice Santosh Hegde, one of the five members of the civil society.
Hegde will attend Tuesday's meeting.
Image: A protest rally against corruption at Ramleela Maidan