New Delhi: The Union government and civil society representatives in the joint drafting committee of the Lokpal Bill failed to reach an agreement on Wednesday after the panel’s seventh meeting, even as the government’s deadline for the preparation of the draft approached.
While the government said it will draft the Bill by 30 June and send it to the cabinet for approval, the civil society members claimed one-and-a-half months of meetings were just a “formality”.
“It is clear that there is no consensus on important issues,” said Kapil Sibal, a committee member and minister for communications and information technology.
Sibal said if both parties fail to agree on a common draft, the government and civil society members will send separate versions of the draft Bill to the cabinet of ministers for approval.
In its fifth meeting on 30 May, the first sign of differences between the two sides emerged after the committee discussed contentious issues, including bringing the Prime Minister and members of the higher judiciary under the ambit of the draft Bill.
Civil society members said the main point of divergence was the approach to the 11-member Lokpal panel.
“The government has conceived the Lokpal as an 11-member body with no investigative machinery working under it and that this 11-member body will take all decisions on behalf of the Lokpal,” said lawyer and committee member Prashant Bhushan.
He said civil society representatives want the 11-member body to “supervise and administer a full vigilance and investigatory machinery under it”.
Protesting a police crackdown against yoga guru Ramdev’s fast venue in New Delhi earlier this month, the civil society members had boycotted the sixth meeting of the committee on 6 June, after which government representatives went ahead with the meeting, reiterating the government will produce a draft by 30 June.
“The government has already made up its mind,” said Arvind Kejriwal, activist and committee member. “The government has no intention to fight corruption and the one-and-a-half months of meeting are all a sham.”
The next, and most likely the last meeting, of the joint drafting committee is scheduled for 20-21 June.