Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The tussle over Lokpal bill not over yet

Draft Lokpal bill can undergo further changes at the all-party meet, says Sibal

New Delhi: Union minister for human resoruces development Kapil Sibal admitted that the draft versions of the Lokpal bill prepared by the five members from the government side of the drafting committee and the Jan Lokpal prepared by Team Anna Hazare will be presented to the all-party conference, then to the chief ministers. The suggestions made by the other parties and the CMs will be taken on board before it goes to the cabinet for its final version that is to be presented in the Monsoon session of parliament.

Sibal also explained that the UPA partners and opposiiton parties did not want to get involved in the debate over Lokpal until the draft bill was ready, which could then serve as a basis for discussion. “Now that the draft bill is ready, we will go to the UPA partners and the opposition,” Sibal said.

Though both the government and the Hazare group seem to be taking a position of finality of their respective versions of the ombudsman bill, the room for further tweaking is not ruled out. It is however the prerogative of the government to present its version in the form of a bill to parliament. The opposition can only hope to offer amendments to the government bill at the standing commitee stage in parliament and vote against it if it does not agree with the government's version.

Law minister Veerappa Moilly who briefed the media along with Sibal and minority affairs minister Salman Khursheed on Tuesday evening said that 23 of the chief ministers expressed the view that they did not want the Lok Ayukta, the counterpart of the Lokpal at the state level, should remain independent and not brought under the purview of the proposed Lokpal. As a result, the Lokpal will not be a national ombudsman dealing with the whole country but will be confined to the central government employees and other public servants at the federal level.

Moily sought to give a positive spin saying that the nine meetings of the commitee were lengthy, that there was no trubulence, and that it concluded peacefully. He also clarified that the version prepared by the five nominees of the government is not to be termed as the government's version. “This is the draft prepared by the five ministers intheir individual capacity. It is only when the cabinet approves the bill that it becomes the government version,” he said.

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