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Santosh Hegde to continue in Lokpal Committee

New Delhi: Justice Santosh Hegde’s threat to quit the Lokpal drafting committee over the alleged smear campaign against civil society activists blew over today with their representatives deciding that he will continue in the panel.

A meeting of the activists led by Anna Hazare also decided to write to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Chief Justice of India S H Kapadia offering themselves to any high-level inquiry into any allegations against them.

“The Committee recognised that the prime national duty of India Against Corruption has been to provide the country an independent and accountable Lokpal.

“The Committee resolved that Hegde will continue as a member. The Committee has also decided to write to the Prime Minister and CJI to conduct any high-level inquiry into any allegations against any of our members,” Kiran Bedi, one of the leading activists, told reporters after the meeting.

The meeting, attended by the 5 civil society representatives in the committee including Shanti and Prashant Bhushan, Hegde, Hazare and Arvind Kejriwal, took place against the backdrop of raging controversies over a controversial CD, allotment of prized land to the Bhushans and alleged evasion of stamp duty by the Bhushans in Allahabad.

Hegde had on Thursday announced that he was considering quitting the Committee in view of the criticism voiced by Congress General Secretary Digvijay Singh and also the “smear campaign” against the Bhushans.

However, this morning he indicated that he may not not press ahead with the resignation in view of the statement made by chairman of the committee and Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee that the government was keen on working with the civil society representatives in the committee for drafting a strong Lokpal legislation.

Hazare also welcomed Mukerjee’s statement and expressed the hope that the Committee will expeditiously complete the task and provide the country with an independent, effective and accountable anti-corruption authority for the country.

On Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati’s demand for inclusion of a dalit representative in the drafting committee, Kejriwal said the government could replace one of the five ministers with a dalit representative.

When asked whether the civil society activists felt that the government was deliberately attempting to derail the process of drafting the bill, Kejriwal said all “corrupt forces” in Congress and other parties and those “in and outside” government have come together to obstruct the enactment of such a bill.

“What is needed is that all well-meaning people should come together not to allow the derailment of the process of drafting a strong Lokpal Bill,” he said.

Asked whether Shanti Bhushan and Hegde had expressed their desire to resign from the committee, he said there was no such thing.

“Corrupt people want us to resign. But we are not falling into the trap,” he said.

On Congress chief Sonia Gandhi’s remarks that she was not in favour of any smear campaign, he said the party should think whether such statements denigrating the civil society should come.

Asked whether Hazare starting his ‘yatra’ from UP has any significance as the Congress has invited him to sit on a dharna there, he said they were not for or against any party.

“We are going there not because they have called us. We are not against any party or any person. We are going there to tell people that they should stand together for the enactment of a strong anti-corruption law,” he said.

On the CFSL report on the controversial CD allegedly involving Shanti Bhushan, Kejriwal alleged that the report was “non-existent”.

“Have anyone seen that report? Who has signed the report. It does not exist. Media is agog with news stories on a non-existent CFSL report,” he claimed.

The meeting, also attended by Bedi and Swami Agnivesh, also decided to reach out to people for both consultations and awareness through ‘yatras’ and meetings in different cities in the coming weeks for which a detailed plan will be chalked out.

“Several regional consultations in different parts of the country are also being organized. Many civil society groups have come forward. Jayprakash Narayan of Lok Satta is organizing a public consultation with senior eminent citizens, including retired judges, former Chief Election Commissioners and others in the capital tomorrow.

“Medha Patkar is organizing a public consultation with civil society groups on 8th May. Public consultations have also been scheduled for April 26, 27 and 29 in Delhi. Other dates are also being planned for such consultations,” Kejriwal said.

A bilingual website–www.lokpalbillconsultation.org –has also been launched for people to access the latest draft bill and offer suggestions, if any.

The public can also send comments and suggestions by email to lokpalbillconsultation@gmail.com or by post to: A-119 First Floor, Kaushambi, Ghaziabad – 201010, Uttar Pradesh.

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