New Delhi, Jun 20: The joint drafting committee on Lokpal Bill met here today amid hardening of stand by the government and civil society on the contentious issue of bringing under its ambit the Prime Minister, judiciary and the conduct of MPs inside Parliament.
Except for civil society member Justice Santosh Hegde, all members of the ten member committee attended the meeting at Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee's office in North Block. The meeting comes in the backdrop of a shrill exchange of words between both sides on contentious issues and government making it clear that it was opposed to bringing the Prime Minister under the ambit of the Lokpal. The government is also opposed to bringing judiciary and the conduct of MPs inside Parliament. The civil society side led by Anna Hazare, however, wants these under the anti-corruption ombudsman.
“We will try to settle the issues as much as possible. There are six issues on which we have differences of opinion,” Hegde, who did not attend today's meeting, said. During the last meeting on June 15, government nominees had asked the civil society members to present their draft while they will present theirs as there was no forward movement. It was also decided that a draft bill will go to the Cabinet along with points of divergence. In an indication that the Congress had hardened its stand, party chief Sonia Gandhi sent a terse letter to Hazare indicating her unhappiness with him for making his letter public and said she has already made her views “clear” on issues raised him.
Today's deliberations could be the last meeting of the joint committee and another round will be held tomorrow only if the discussions for an anti-corruption watchdog are not concluded.Senior ministers held discussions last evening to fine-tune the government's strategy.
Denying any split in civil society, Hegde said he was not attending today's meeting because of prior commitments but would attend tomorrow's meeting.
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, the Congress core group has favoured convening an all-party meeting on the issue of inclusion of the Prime Minister.
Government sources indicated that the meeting is expected to be convened soon after June 30 by which time the work of the Joint Committee to draft the bill will be over. Senior ministers like P Chidambaram and several top party leaders have been maintaining there was divergence of views on the prime minister's inclusion.
Reports have it that the UPA constituents too have divergent views. They say that since the Congress is leading the coalition it has to take everyone together. PTI