New Delhi, Jun 20 : After an acrimonious meeting last week, the joint drafting committee on Lokpal Bill today agreed on most of the issues but new areas of disagreement like the manner of selection and removal of the ombudsman came up adding to persisting differences on contentious aspects.
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 tomorrow 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 per cent 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 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.
Immediately after, Bhushan said agreement was on minor issues and differences persisted on contentious issues like bringing under Lokpal the post of Prime Minister, higher judiciary and the conduct of MPs inside Parliament.
He said “two new issues” of divergence came up. These relate to the constitution of the selection panel and procedure for removal of Lokpal.
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.
“These are new areas of differences which came up,” he said.
Kejriwal said the government circulated a exhaustive note which detailed the areas of agreement and disagreement.
He said out of the 40 issues raised by the Hazare team, the government had agreed on 11.
“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 tomorrow's meeting.
“There were discussions today. The government side patiently heard us. This time they also came with arguments on issues. Earlier, they never said anything and just announced decisions on issues,” Kejriwal said.
He said there was also discussion on the model of Lokpal, and the civil society side tried to reason with the ministers that such a structure can work, provided it is armed with a good system.
“We told them that the CVC which has 236 employees, still have corrupt officials while the Delhi Metro with over 7,000 employees is run the best. There are even Indian Railways employees who are on deputation.
“While there can be corrupt in Railways, they cannot be so in Delhi Metro as the system is strong there. I spoke to Delhi Metro chief E Sreedharan this morning and he told me that they have a system in built. Even if Sreedharan leaves and if the system remains, there will be no corruption,” he said.
The six issues of divergence earlier flagged by the committee include bringing under the Lokpal the post of Prime Minister, higher judiciary, conduct of MPs inside House, the financial model to be followed, bringing CBI and setting up Lokayukta at state level.
The civil society side claimed that the government agrees to their demand of providing fund from Consolidated Fund of India but wants the decision on spending to remain with it. The civil society wants the financial independence of Lokpal to be complete. PTI