Divided Lokpal panel to meet today

(source: zeenews.com)

New Delhi: Amid war of words between the representatives of government and civil society, the two sides will meet on Monday in a last ditch effort to iron out their differences on the Lokpal Bill.

Following today’s meeting, the committee would also be meeting tomorrow, to try and iron out the differences and complete the drafting process by June 30.

While the government has virtually ruled out bringing the post of the Prime Minister under the ambit of the anti-corruption watchdog, Congress Core Group has favoured convening an all-party meeting on the issue of inclusion of the PM.

HRD Minister Kapil Sibal , a member of the Joint Drafting Committee, said the view within the government is that Prime Minister should not be included within the ambit of Lokpal. He, however, said once the PM demits office, he should not be “exonerated” from prosecution.

A final view on the ticklish issue will be taken by the Union Cabinet once the draft bill reaches it after consultation with political parties, he said.

A government representative of the Committee said the inclusion of judiciary and conduct of MPs inside Parliament in the proposed legislation was “not possible” as it would amount to amending the Constitution.

“The Committee’s mandate is clear and that is to enact legislation. The members led by Anna Hazare are also clear about the mandate…it is in the notification,” he said.

But the member insisted that the government side will try its best to convince the civil society members about its “stand and compulsions”.

However, the Anna Hazare team dubbed the argument to keep the Prime Minister out of Lokpal’s ambit as “absurd”.

Yesterday, Congress president Sonia Gandhi replied to Anna Hazare’s letter accusing her party of maligning his image and said that her stand on the issue has not changed.

“As far as the questions raised by you in the letter, I have already clarified my stand in the previous letter dated April 19,” Gandhi said in her reply.

Gandhi had written to Hazare on April 19 saying that she was not in favour of smear campaigns.

Upon his arrival in Delhi yesterday, Hazare said he would have to first go through Congress president’s reply to his letter before reacting on it.

“I haven’t read the letter yet. We will read the letter and then react,” he said.

He also announced that civil society representatives would decide whether he should first undertake a nationwide tour against corruption before undertaking a fast if a strong Lokpal Bill was not ready.

Hazare’s comments on his proposed fast from August 16 came against the backdrop of the civil society representative and Karnataka Lokayukta Santosh Hegde saying it would be better for him if he went around the country and mobilised support against corruption.

Hedge is not taking part in today’s meeting. Speaking to a new s channel today, he said that he will be coming to Delhi today evening and will be part of tomorrow’s meeting to ‘show solidarity’.

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