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Govt, civil society members to meet today

By The Assam Tribune

NEW DELHI, June 19 � Amid war of words between the representatives of government and civil society, the two sides will meet tomorrow in a last-ditch effort to iron out their differences on the Lokpal Bill.

While the government has virtually ruled out bringing the post of the Prime Minister under the ambit of the anti-corruption watchdog, Congress core group has favoured convening an all-party meeting on the issue of inclusion of the PM.

HRD Minister Kapil Sibal, a member of the Joint Drafting Committee, said the view within the government is that Prime Minister should not be included within the ambit of Lokpal. He, however, said once the PM demits office, he should not be �exonerated� from prosecution.

A final view on the ticklish issue will be taken by the Union Cabinet once the draft Bill reaches it after consultation with political parties, he said.

A government representative of the Committee said the inclusion of judiciary and conduct of MPs inside Parliament in the proposed legislation was �not possible� as it would amount to amending the Constitution.

�The Committee�s mandate is clear and that is to enact a legislation. The members led by Anna Hazare are also clear about the mandate...It is in the notification,� he said.

But the member insisted that the government side will try its best to convince the civil society members about its �stand and compulsions�.

However, the Anna Hazare team dubbed the argument to keep the Prime Minister out of Lokpal�s ambit as �absurd�.

HRD Minister Kapil Sibal has said while the government was opposed to the PM�s inclusion under the Lokpal Bill, it was open to the idea to cover him once he demits office.

�Within the government, we feel prima facie, the PM should not be covered. But, we want to make sure that if he demits office, he should not be exonerated from prosecution,� Sibal, who is a member of the Joint Committee, has said.

Congress and the government are of the view that the Parliament is supreme and Anna Hazare and his team should not adopt the attitude of �my way or the highway�.

That the government and Congress wanted to involve other parties was evident when Sibal recently said political parties could have different views on the matter.

Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, whose party SAD is part of the NDA, has expressed himself against bringing Prime Minister under the ambit of the Lokpal.

Congress has accused BJP of playing opportunistic politics by not not revealing its mind on the key issue.

Delhi Chief Minister and senior Congress leader Shiela Dikshit has opposed to the idea of setting up of Lokpal and advised that the existing mechanism against corruption should be strengthened.

Chief ministers of Congress-ruled states have toed the Centre�s line on the Lokpal Bill opposing inclusion of the Prime Minister under its ambit while those from States where BJPis in power have sought wider deliberations before a final view is taken.

Several Chief Ministers of BJP-ruled States have expressed surprise over why they are being consulted now when final draft is not ready and demanded that their opinion is sought on the whole Bill and not just on the six issues where differences have cropped up between the Centre and the civil society.

Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, who is chairman of the joint Lokpal Bill drafting panel, had sent six questions on the proposed legislation to the chief ministers seeking their opinion on them. � PTI

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Govt, civil society members to meet today

NEW DELHI, June 19 � Amid war of words between the representatives of government and civil society, the two sides will meet tomorrow in a last-ditch effort to iron out their differences on the Lokpal Bill.

While the government has virtually ruled out bringing the post of the Prime Minister under the ambit of the anti-corruption watchdog, Congress core group has favoured convening an all-party meeting on the issue of inclusion of the PM.

HRD Minister Kapil Sibal, a member of the Joint Drafting Committee, said the view within the government is that Prime Minister should not be included within the ambit of Lokpal. He, however, said once the PM demits office, he should not be �exonerated� from prosecution.

A final view on the ticklish issue will be taken by the Union Cabinet once the draft Bill reaches it after consultation with political parties, he said.

A government representative of the Committee said the inclusion of judiciary and conduct of MPs inside Parliament in the proposed legislation was �not possible� as it would amount to amending the Constitution.

�The Committee�s mandate is clear and that is to enact a legislation. The members led by Anna Hazare are also clear about the mandate...It is in the notification,� he said.

But the member insisted that the government side will try its best to convince the civil society members about its �stand and compulsions�.

However, the Anna Hazare team dubbed the argument to keep the Prime Minister out of Lokpal�s ambit as �absurd�.

HRD Minister Kapil Sibal has said while the government was opposed to the PM�s inclusion under the Lokpal Bill, it was open to the idea to cover him once he demits office.

�Within the government, we feel prima facie, the PM should not be covered. But, we want to make sure that if he demits office, he should not be exonerated from prosecution,� Sibal, who is a member of the Joint Committee, has said.

Congress and the government are of the view that the Parliament is supreme and Anna Hazare and his team should not adopt the attitude of �my way or the highway�.

That the government and Congress wanted to involve other parties was evident when Sibal recently said political parties could have different views on the matter.

Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, whose party SAD is part of the NDA, has expressed himself against bringing Prime Minister under the ambit of the Lokpal.

Congress has accused BJP of playing opportunistic politics by not not revealing its mind on the key issue.

Delhi Chief Minister and senior Congress leader Shiela Dikshit has opposed to the idea of setting up of Lokpal and advised that the existing mechanism against corruption should be strengthened.

Chief ministers of Congress-ruled states have toed the Centre�s line on the Lokpal Bill opposing inclusion of the Prime Minister under its ambit while those from States where BJPis in power have sought wider deliberations before a final view is taken.

Several Chief Ministers of BJP-ruled States have expressed surprise over why they are being consulted now when final draft is not ready and demanded that their opinion is sought on the whole Bill and not just on the six issues where differences have cropped up between the Centre and the civil society.

Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, who is chairman of the joint Lokpal Bill drafting panel, had sent six questions on the proposed legislation to the chief ministers seeking their opinion on them. � PTI