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PM out of govt draft; Lokpal panel winds up in disagreement

New Delhi: The civil society and the government today failed to arrive at a common draft on Lokpal Bill over which there were major differences as the official version excluded the Prime Minister from its purview.

Maintaining that they “agreed to disagree”, HRD Minister Kapil Sibal told reporters after an hour-long meeting that differences could not be resolved on around eight key issues. A draft bill, which could be a combination of views of both the sides or separate, will be taken up by the Union Cabinet before introduction in Parliament during the Monsoon Session.

The key issues on which differences remained even after the ninth and last meeting of the 10-member panel included bringing the Prime Minister, higher judiciary and acts of
MPs inside Parliament within the purview of the Lokpal, the mode of selection and removal of its members.

The government draft which was unveiled at the meeting excludes the Prime Minister, said activist Arvind Kejriwal. Expressing “deep disappointment” over the government draft, the Anna Hazare team said the model proposed by it was just a “symbolic attempt” to install an authority in the name of Lokpal rather than a “comprehensive, independent, empowered” institution to fight corruption.

“They gave their draft, we gave our draft and there was a short discussion…on important issues there was no agreement. These are six issues (on which views have been sought from political parties) and one or two more issues,” Sibal told reporters after an hour-long meeting.

“We agreed to disagree,” he said adding, the differences related to changing the existing system of governance.

“There are two-three days. If they (Hazare team) wish to give comments on our drafts, they can do so…we hope the differences are resolved,” Sibal said.

Both the drafts will be circulated among political parties in a meeting next month before being taken up by the Cabinet, he said. The HRD Minister, who was one of the five ministers in the joint committee, insisted that the government would bring a “strong” anti-corruption bill as “we had promised”.

Hazare aides Prshant Bhushan and Kejriwal said the government draft made it clear that the ruling party will have control over the Lokpal as five of the seven political members of the selection committee will be from the party in power.

“I must say I am deeply disappointed by the model of Lokpal that the government has proposed,” Bhushan said. Criticising the government, Kejriwal said that the earlier draft had at least proposed to bring the PM in the purview of Lokpal but the present one does not have this provision.

However, Bhushan said “some gains” have been made in the long exercise.

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