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All party meet on Lokpal bill ends, differences remain

Sunday July 03, 2011 08:59:19 PM, IANS

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New Delhi: The all-party meeting on the Lokpal bill ended Sunday evening with no major breakthrough on the contentious issue of including prime minister within the ambit of the proposed anti-graft legislation and the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) voicing its differences on the government's version of the legislation.

At the end of the three-hour meeting at Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's official residence, BJP leader Sushma Swaraj said they had differences on the government's draft bill.

"We have differences over the procedure for selecting the Lokpal, its area of jurisdiction and the qualifications of person for the post," Sushma Swaraj, who is the Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha, said afer the meeting.

She said that the bill should be introduced in the monsoon session of parliament (beginning August 1) and sent to the standing committee "so that political parties, state governments and organisations can give their reactions and suggestions".

"It can be passed after incorporating suggestions of the standing committee," she said.
She said that BJP will articulate its differences with the government on the bill in parliament.

Manmohan Singh set the tone for the meeting with his opening remarks, reaffirming his government's commitment to a Lokpal bill which provides for a strong institutional arrangement for tackling corruption in high places. He said the legislation will be brought in the monsoon session of parliament.

He said that the institutional arrangement for the Lokpal should enjoy support of as large a section of people as possible and it has to work in harmony with other institutions and laws.

Besides the prime minister, the all-party meeting was attended by Congress president Sonia Gandhi, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, Home Minister P. Chidambaram, Law Minister M. Veerapa Moily, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders L.K. Advani, Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley and Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) leader Sitaram Yechury, among others.

Leaders of Janata Dal-United, Bahujan Samaj Party, Samajwadi Party, DMK, AIADMK, Rashtriya Janata Dal and Telugu Desam Party also attended the meeting.

The meeting came in the backdrop of efforts by the government to evolve a consensus on the anti-graft bill following meetings of a joint drafting committee comprising civil society members and central ministers.

The drafting committee, which ended its deliberations last month, saw differences between civil society representatives and the government on several issues relating to the bill, including inclusion of the prime minister and the judiciary in its ambit. Two drafts of the proposed bill have thus emerged.

Civil society activists led by Anna Hazare held a series of meetings with political parties ahead of all-party meeting to seek support for their version of the bill.

Hazare has declared he will go on a fast from Aug 16 if a comprehensive legislation is not brought before parliament.

Political parties remain divided over including the prime minister and the higher judiciary within the ambit of the proposed anti-graft legislation.

While the Congress has favoured exclding the prime minister and the higher judiciary from the ambit of the proposed bill, there appears to be no unanimity in the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) on this.

The DMK, an ally of the Congress, has said it has no reservation in bringing the prime minister within the ambit of the Lokpal while the Nationalist Congress Party said that the prime minister, the higher judiciary and the conduct of MPs in parliament should be kept out of the purview of the Lokpal.

The CPI-M Saturday said the prime minister should be covered by the Lokpal with adequate safeguards but the judiciary should be kept out of its ambit.










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