New Delhi: All political parties have backed the government’s move to introduce a Lokpal Bill in the forthcoming monsoon session of Parliament, even though some of them differed on the proposed provisions.
With this, the stage is set for fresh political action on promulgating a Lokpal Bill that was first initiated in 1968. It will also help the organized political class regain control from civil society over the debate on providing legal safeguards to contain corruption in public office.
“The government should bring before the next session of Parliament a strong and effective Lokpal Bill following the established procedures,” said an all-party resolution issued after the meeting.
The all-party meet was convened by the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government at Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s residence to initiate discussions on the Bill and take views of political parties ahead of formulating the final draft that would be presented in Parliament.
In his opening remarks, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said the government was committed to a Lokpal Act, providing for “strong, effective and quick institutional arrangement for tackling corruption in high places” and was keen on bringing it before Parliament in the monsoon session. Singh, however stressed on the need for the “widest possible consensus”.
“While a good law and a strong institution are necessary to tackle the problem of corruption, these alone would never suffice... The institution of the Lokpal has to work in harmony with other institutions and laws and it has to function within the framework of the basic structure of our Constitution.,” the Prime Minister added.
The meeting was attended by Congress president Sonia Gandhi, Union ministers Pranab Mukherjee, P. Chidambaram, Kapil Sibal, M. Veerappa Moily, Salman Khursheed and Pawan Kumar Bansal. Agriculture minister Sharad Pawar and heavy industries minister Praful Patel (both from the Nationalist Congress Party), and Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam’s T.R. Baalu were among the UPA constituents to attend the meeting.
From the opposition, senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader L.K. Advani, leaders of opposition in both Houses Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley, Janata Dal (United) chief Sharad Yadav, Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader Sitaram Yechury, Communist Party of India’s Gurudas Dasgupta and D. Raja as well as Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Prasad were among those present.
The Bahujan Samaj Party and Samajwadi Party were represented by S.C. Mishra and Ram Gopal Yadav, respectively.
“We clearly said we (BJP) are in favour of a strong and effective Lokpal... We want the government to bring an improved Bill in the monsoon session of Parliament and send it to the standing committee,” said Swaraj. “We have differences with the government’s draft Bill on provisions like selection of Lokpal, its jurisdiction, etc., but we did not specify them here since we want to do it in Parliament.”
The government had constituted a joint drafting committee with representatives from the Union cabinet and civil society in April this year, following a campaign against corruption led by activist Anna Hazare.
However, despite nine meetings, the joint drafting committee continues to differ over key issues such as inclusion of the Prime Minister and the judiciary under the ambit of the Lokpal and the method of appointment and removal of the Lokpal.
Over the past week, Hazare and his team met senior political leaders of various parties to garner support for their version of the Bill.
PTI contributed to this story.