Cabinet meets on Sunday to attempt tabling Lokpal on Tuesday

The Cabinet will meet on Sunday to discuss and possibly amend the Lokpal bill to reach a consensus on the issue so that it can be tabled in the Parliament on Tuesday.

FP Staff December 16, 2011 16:40:25 IST
Cabinet meets on Sunday to attempt tabling Lokpal on Tuesday

The Cabinet will meet on Sunday to discuss and possibly amend the Lokpal bill in a bid to reach a consensus on the issue with the Opposition parties. The government intends to bring up the Lokpal for discussion in the Parliament on Tuesday. It wants the legislation to sail through in order to avoid any blame about lack of sincerity on its part.

The Congress has constituted a crack-team of Home Minister P Chidambaram, Law Minister Salman Khurshid and minister of state in the PMO V Narayanaswamy to discuss clause by clause amendments to the bill. In an attempt to pacify Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samajwadi Party and Rashtriya Janata Dal, the government today decided to bring in reservations in the Lokpal.

Cabinet meets on Sunday to attempt tabling Lokpal on Tuesday

The Cabinet will meet on Sunday to discuss and possibly amend the Lokpal bill in a bid to reach a consensus on the issue with the Opposition parties. Reuters

With Anna Hazare threatening to go on an indefinite hunger strike if the bill is not passed by the end of the Winter Session and the main Opposition in  Parliament demanding that Anna's deadline of 22 December be met, the government wants to legislate the bill at the earliest to save itself from a possible face-off between the Congress and Anna Hazare.

The government is ready to pass the bill at least in the Lok Sabha where it has the numbers, but to get it through the Upper House, the Opposition has to cooperate as the government is in a minority there.

Earlier yesterday Hazare had called for a Jail Bharo Aandolan starting 1 January 2012.

Meanwhile, the cabinet meet on Sunday is also expected to discuss extending the winter session if required. After introducing the bill in Parliament next week, the government may consider calling a special session in the second week of January, early next year, for a debate and vote.

Team Anna had contended that the Winter Session be extended to pass the bill, considering that nearly 10 of the 17 days of the session were wasted following constant Opposition disruptions in the Parliament.

Minister of State for the Prime Minister's Office, V Narayanaswamy , said the government is working on a draft that will be acceptable to all the parties and Anna Hazare.

The government had called for an all party meeting on Wednesday in a bid to reach a consensus on the Lokpal. The BJP has been sticking to its stand on the inclusion of the prime minister and lower bureaucracy under the Lokpal, the Left on the other hand is firmly opposed to the move.

Another contentious issue is the inclusion of CBI under Lokpal. Anna Hazare has been demanding that the investigative agency be brought under the purview of the Lokpal, while the BJP and the Left have been demanding its autonomy.

CBI Director AP Singh met the prime minister earlier this week and told him that the agency was willing to accept the Lokpal bill in its present form if the Lokpal has only supervisory powers over the CBI.  The CBI wants all administrative, financial and legal powers to be vested in the agency's chief.

The BJP on the other hand wants the agency to remain independent. "If the CBI is controlled by the government it will become a toy because the investigating arm of the Lokpal will be under the government," Arun Jaitley had said earlier this week.

Jaitley had said that the BJP wants the administrative functions of the CBI to be brought under the Lokpal's ambit.  The CBI chief had indicated to the PM that any attempts to bifurcate the agency will be damaging.

The government's new proposal pitches that only the CBI's prosecution wing will be under the Lokpal's supervision, while its investigation and administration wings will be independent.

Anna Hazare and his anti-corruption crusaders want the CBI completely under the Lokpal. They argue that the Lokpal will be a post office if it doesn't have an independent investigating and prosecution wing.

The government's new proposal reportedly pitches that only the CBI's prosecution wing will be under the Lokpal's supervision, while its investigation and administration wings will be independent.

There is broad consensus among political parties about bringing the prime minister and lakhs of junior bureaucrats under the ambit of the Lokpal. Safeguards will be listed to protect the PM's office from frivolous complaints and to prohibit the disclosure of details that could affect national security or foreign policy. The big sticking point remains the relationship between the Lokpal and the premier investigating agency, the CBI.

"The government is trying its best to see as to how diverse opinions over the bill can be harmonised and differences reconciled. Unanimity can be evolved, consensus can be built and we can go ahead. We can only advise them (Team Anna) to have patience," Congress spokesman Manish Tewari said.

Meanwhile, it is learnt that the government is not likely to consider the Judicial Accountability Bill and the Citizens' Charter Bill in this session of Parliament. Team Anna wants the Judiciary and the grievance redressal cell to be under the Lokpal.

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