BeyondHeadlines News Desk
New Delhi: The government today met with leaders of all major opposition parties to arrive at a compromise that Anna Hazare may accept, but the meeting could not bear fruit. In his opening remarks, the prime minister explained the status of his minister’s negotiations with the activists.
I welcome you all to this All Party Meeting on the Lokpal Bill, which is before the Standing Committee. In our last meeting on July 3, we all had agreed that we must enact a strong Lokpal Bill which can deal with the menace of corruption. During the meeting, two Lokpal Bills, one prepared by the official members of the Joint Drafting Committee, and the other, the Jan Lokpal Bill, were presented before you. The consensus that emerged was that the Government should bring a strong and effective Lokpal Bill in the coming Session of the Parliament for enactment by following the established legislative procedure.
The Government had accordingly prepared a Bill and introduced it in the Lok Sabha on 4 August, 2011. The Bill was referred to the Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice and it is being discussed in that Committee.
Meanwhile, Shri Anna Hazareji and his colleagues have continued to maintain their stand in support of the Jan Lokpal Bill. Shri Anna Hazareji went on fast at the Ramlila Maidan from 16 August to press for their demands.
I have personally stated the Government’s position in public on more than one occasion. We want a strong and effective Lokpal Bill. Accordingly, we would like the Standing Committee to consider all points of view to evolve a broad based national consensus to create a strong institution of the Lokpal.
The fast of Shri Anna Hazareji and his failing health are a matter of concern to all of us. Yesterday, I felt that I should take a personal initiative to appeal to Shri Anna Hazareji to end his fast so that we may work together in a spirit of cooperative engagement to bring into existence a strong Lokpal.
Accordingly, I wrote to him requesting him to end his fast and reiterated Government’s intention to pass the best possible Lokpal legislation with inputs from civil society and on the basis of the broadest possible consensus. I said that the matter was with the Standing Committee and the Committee was entitled to consider not only the Bill introduced by the Government but the Jan Lokpal Bill and other versions like those prepared by Shrimati Aruna Roy as well. I said that our Government was prepared to request the Speaker of the Lok Sabha to formally refer the Jan Lokpal Bill also to the Standing Committee for their holistic consideration along with everything else. I also said that the Government can formally request the Standing Committee to fast-track their deliberations to the extent reasonably feasible, subject to its discretion and the necessity to reflect deeply and spend adequate time on such an important Bill.
Following this, Shri Anna Hazare agreed to hold discussions with the Government. Accordingly, Shri Pranab Mukherjee and Shri Salman Khurshid met with three of his representatives to find a way out of the present impasse. Broadly their position is that (a) the Government should withdraw the Bill introduced in Parliament (b) the Jan Lokpal Bill should be introduced with some changes in Parliament within four days and (c) this Bill should be discussed and passed during this session of Parliament by extending it if necessary, with minor amendments adopted by Parliament, and without referring the Bill to the Standing Committee. If a written commitment can be given with timelines, then the representatives said they can hopefully persuade Annaji to stop his fast. I will ask Pranabji to brief us later in more detail on what transpired in the meeting.
Our common objective is to build a strong and independent institution that will deal effectively with corruption, which is a major challenge that confronts our democracy and our nation. Recent developments have raised issues, related to the functioning of our Parliamentary democracy, that concern all of us. I, therefore, thought it appropriate to convene this meeting to brief you on these developments and seek your guidance on the way forward.