New Delhi: Sharp differences came to the surface at a meeting of the drafting committee for Lokpal bill on Monday with the government strongly opposing proposals for inclusion of Prime Minister, higher judiciary and acts of MPs inside Parliament under its purview.
Anna Hazare, one of the members of the committee, who is spearheading the campaign for a strong and effective Lokpal bill, said that he was not hopeful of the government meeting its deadline of 30 June 2011 for preparing the bill.
At the meeting held under the chairmanship of finance minister Pranab Mukherjee, contentious issues came up for discussion in the committee for the first time.
Arvind Kejriwal and Prasahant Bhushan, both civil society members of the committee, said except on one issue of keeping citizen charter and public grievances under the jurisdiction of Lokpal, the government opposed the demands for bringing the prime minister, higher judiciary and the corrupt acts of MPs inside Parliament under the ambit of the Lokpal.
They said the government’s proposals on Monday were “worse” than what it had proposed in its first bill, which had been “condemned and rejected”.
Kejriwal said even the latest bill of the government had kept prime minister under the purview of Lokpal but the government has gone back on it.
As no agreement could be reached between them on Monday, the government has decided to write to states and political parties to seek their opinion on these “issues of divergence” and get back to them at the next meeting on 6 June 2011.
Kapil Sibal said there was need to take the view of the states since Lokayukts have to be appointed there.
Bhushan said the government representatives told them that bringing the prime minister under Lokpal’s purview would make him ‘dysfunctional´.
He pointed out that the government’s bill itself had a provision for bringing prime minister under the Lokpal and even now he was not beyond the purview of investigation on corruption issues.
“We only wanted that he comes under the purview of an independent agency instead of the agencies that come under the government which results in conflict of interest,” Bhushan said.
Kejriwal also rued “prime minister wants to be investigated by an agency like CBI, which is under him but not by an independent agency.”
Besides Mukherjee, those who attended the meeting from the government side were ministers P Chidambaram (Home), Sibal (Law), Salman Khurshid (Minority Affairs) and M Veerappa Moily (Law).
From the civil society side, those present were Hazare, Shanti and Prashant Bhushan, Kejriwal and Santosh Hegde.