Monday, June 20, 2011

Selection & removal the Lokpal Member - Contentious:Prashant Bhusan

The government indicated that there is a broad consensus on major issues of the Lok Pal Bill after discussions with civil society members today in New Delhi. Briefing the media after the 8th meeting of the Joint Drafting Committee on Lokpal, HRD Minister Kapil Sibal said there is agreement on about 85 per cent clauses of the bill. Describing today's meeting as a major step forward, the Minister said areas of divergence and differences will be discussed in the all party meeting to be convened by the Prime Minister next month. Mr. Sibal reiterated the government's commitment to introduce a strong Lok Pal Bill in the monsoon session of Parliament.

Briefing the media, noted lawyer Prashant Bhusan said, in tomorrow's meeting, the Civil Society and the Government Representatives will exchange their drafts to hammer out consensus on agreed issues. He said differences on major issues will be presented as two alternatives in a single draft to be taken up by the government at appropriate fora. In reply to a question, Mr Bhusan said, two new areas of disagreement, selection and removal process of the Lokpal, appeared in today's meeting.

Both the government side and the Anna Hazare team said the three-hour-long meeting was held in a "very cordial atmosphere" but differed on the extent of its success.
The committee will meet on Tuesday for the last time during which both the sides will exchange their drafts on which they will comment upon.HRD Minister Kapil Sibal told reporters that 80 to 85 percent 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."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 Monday.

On the basis of this, a strong Lokpal Bill can be drafted and sent to Cabinet so that it can be introduced in Parliament in the Monsoon session.

"There is agreement on 80 to 85 per cent of issues...I feel this is a very major breakthrough," Sibal said.

Hazare also said the meeting was good but left it to Bhushan and other associates to give details.

Explaining on the new issues that came up, Bhushan said, "according to government version, the appointment committee is filled with politicians and government officials. Our bill has provision for an independent, broad-based committee like the Chief Election Commissioner."

The government version proposes that the selection committee should comprise Prime Minister, Speaker, Leaders of both Houses of Parliament, Leaders of Opposition of both Houses, Lok Sabha Speaker, Home Minister, 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 ones against whom the ombudsman would be conducting investigations at some stage.

On the removal procedure of 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.

"The issue of bringing the post of Prime Minister under 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.

He will attend Tuesday’s meeting.

Lokpal joint drafting committee the eighth meet today

Nksagar-Sagar Media Inc: 20 June 2011 New Delhi:
The representatives of government and civil society, the two sides will meet on Monday its a Lokpal joint drafting committee the eighth meet in a last ditch attempt to resolve contentious issues and hammer out a consensus on the Lokpal Bill.On the eve of the meeting of the Lokpal joint drafting committee - the eighth since April 16, Senior ministers held discussions for nearly three hours on Sunday evening to finetune the Government's strategy.The deliberations, chaired by Finance Minister and panel chairman Pranab Mukherjee, were attended by Union ministers Kapil Sibal, Salman Khurshid and Veerappa Moily - all members of the committee.

Minister of State in PMO V Narayanaswamy also took part in the parleys. However, another member of the committee Home Minister P Chidambaram was not present as he was out of town.None of the ministers spoke to media after the meeting which lasted two hours and 45 minutes.Monday's deliberations could be the last meeting of the joint committee and another round will be held on Tuesday if the discussions for an anti-corruption watchdog are not concluded on Monday.

Karnataka Lokayukta Santosh Hegde, a member of the drafting committee, denied any split in the Anna Hazare camp and said he will attend the panel's meeting and backed the social activist's planned fast from August 16 after opposing it.

After his comments on Hazare's fast and inability to take part in the meeting in Delhi fuelled speculation of differences among civil society representatives, Hegde said he will be present on June 21 to show there is 'no rift'.

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. The Hazare camp is pressing for bringing the Prime Minister under Lokpal's purview.

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.

Santosh Hegde however feels keeping the Prime Minister out of Lokpal till he demits office will not serve the purpose of having an effective investigation because there will not be any trail of any misconduct.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 a 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"."There is no reason whatsoever to exclude the Prime Minister. Whatever arguments are being given seem to suggest that if the Prime Minister was subject to anti-corruption investigation then he would become dysfunctional," lawyer Prashant Bhushan, a team member, said.

He said the argument was "absurd" as the Prime Minister can be investigated by the CBI, which is under his control, but not an independent agency like Lokpal.If the two sides fail to settle their differences, a draft bill with points of agreements and disagreements will be prepared.The government and civil society are at loggerheads on the issues of inclusion of prime minister, judiciary and conduct of MPs inside Parliament.

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