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Govt., civil society present contradicting versions of Lokpal Bill meet

New Delhi , Mon, 20 Jun 2011 ANI

New Delhi, June 20 (ANI): Even as the government claimed to have resolved all differences with the civil society activists team led by Gandhian Anna Hazare, the two groups, which met for the eight time today to take the process of drafting an effective Lokpal Bill to combat corruption came out with contradicting versions.


Union Human Resource and Development (HRD) Minister Kapil Sibal told mediapersons after the meeting that 80 to 85 percent consensus has been arrived between the government and the civil society activists with regard to drafting an effective Lokpal Bill.


"There was a frank exchange of views on a range of issues and there was a broad consensus. It's a major step forward and both sides feel that we should move towards consensus. The government will consult the other political parties in July over the draft," said Sibal.


"There are issues that we don't agree with today and which we didn't agree with earlier. Keeping that aside, we have agreed on other issues. The two sides will exchange their respective drafts of the Lokpal Bill tomorrow," he added.


Advocate Prashant Bhushan, who is a member of the Lokpal Bill Joint Drafting Committee, however, presented a different version of today's meeting, saying that two new differences have emerged.


"The first difference is over the selection committee of Lokpal. We have proposed a broad based committee with independent and non-political individuals. The government version suggests selection committee dominated by political people and mostly from the government itself," said Bhushan.


"The second difference is that we did not agree to government's suggestion that only they can make a reference in the Supreme Court," he added.


Bhushan further said: "Tomorrow we will place our drafts before each other. Thereafter the drafts will be sent to the cabinet."


On the eve of the meeting of the Lokpal joint drafting committee - the eighth since April 16 - senior ministers held discussions for nearly three hours to fine-tune the government's strategy.


Union Ministers Kapil Sibal, Salman Khurshid and Veerappa Moily - all members of the committee, attended the deliberations, chaired by Finance Minister and panel chairman Pranab Mukherjee.


In an earlier meeting, there was a consensus on seven of the 34 points submitted by the civil society members.


There was an agreement on empowering the Lokpal to initiate a suo motu probe into allegations of corruption against ministers, parliamentarians and senior bureaucrats.


Currently, a minister can be prosecuted only after sanction from the Prime Minister. The Lok Sabha Speaker or the Rajya Sabha Chairman has to give the nod in case of action against a Member of Parliament.


Former Union Minister Shanti Bhushan, a member of Hazare's camp and co-chair of the committee, in a letter to Mukherjee had earlier suggested that the government first present its views on all remaining points and possible solutions on issues on which there were divergent views.


The latest version has a new clause, Clause 13-C, which gives wide powers to 'an appropriate bench of the Lokpal' to approve interception and monitoring of messages or data or voice transmitted through telephones, internet or any other medium as covered under the India Telegraph Act, read with the Information and Technology Act 2000.


Another new provision in this draft is for the setting up of a separate "prosecution wing" for the office of Lokpal, which is already envisaged to have powers to investigate.


The draft was circulated to government representatives during the Committee's fist meeting on April 16. (ANI)


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