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Government to bring Lokpal bill in line with constitution

Monday July 04, 2011 07:57:09 PM, IANS

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New Delhi: The government was committed to tabling the Lokpal bill in parliament's monsoon session, but won't amend the constitution for the proposed anti-corruption legislation, Home Minister P. Chidambaram said Monday.

Addressing a media conference, a day after an all-party meeting agreed that a "strong and effective" bill should be introduced in the coming session of parliament, Chidambaram was noncommittal on when the legislation would be passed as it would have to be referred to a standing committee for broader consensus.

This effectively means the Lokpal (ombudsman) bill would have to wait for the winter session in mid-November to be passed.

"We will bring (the) bill in the monsoon session of parliament," the home minister said at the press conference, that was also addressed by Human Resource Development (HRD) Minister Kapil Sibal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister P.K. Bansal.

The home minister said the all-party meeting adopted "unanimously a one-sentence resolution" emphasising that the Lokpal bill would be tabled in accordance with "established procedure".

"While the government will make every effort to pass the bill at the earliest" but that would depend upon members of parliament, he said.

Chidambaram was categorical in saying that the final draft bill would be in line with the constitution of India as the government didn't consider it as "an occasion to rewrite the constitution".

"The other aspect emphasized by every political party was that whatever laws are made must be within the constitution."

Asked whether referring the bill to a standing committee would mean a delay, at least till the winter session, in seeing the measure through, HRD minister Sibal said: "We had said we are committed to bring the bill. We will keep the promise. We never said it would be passed in the monsoon session."

The all-party meeting was part of the government's efforts to evolve a consensus on the anti-graft bill after meetings of a joint drafting committee, comprising five nominees of social reformer Anna Hazare and five central ministers, failed to do so.

The drafting panel was divided on several issues, including bringing the prime minister and the judiciary under the purview of the proposed Lokpal. Both the sides gave their own drafts of the proposed bill.

The home minister said most political parties in Sunday's meeting said they would reserve comment until a cabinet-approved draft bill on whether the judiciary and the prime minister should be brought under the purview of the Lokpal or not.

"I think this is a perfectly legitimate and correct position to take," he said, referring to the elusive consensus on the contentious legislation.

He however clarified that it was not the draft prepared by the ministers on the panel that will be submitted to parliament.

This draft, he said, would be refined before being tabled.

"What was presented (at the all-party meeting) is a draft. It will go to departments and ministries concerned. It will be sent to the nodal ministry (before being referred to the cabinet). The cabinet will finalise the draft. The draft approved by the cabinet will be introduced in parliament."

Asked about Hazare's threat to launch a hunger strike from Aug 16, in case the bill as demanded by the civil society was not made into law by then, Chidambaram said it was "premature" to predict what would happen in the future as the government will bring the bill that "will satisfy the vast majority of this country".

Chidambaram said the government was "very happy with the outcome of the meeting" that took place "in a very cordial atmosphere".

But senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader L.K. Advani said the meeting was "unique and without precedent" because it "turned out to be so unanimous in its criticism of the government".

Advani did not reveal the BJP's stand on the inclusion of the prime minister under Lokpal. However, in his blog he did mention about a similar legislation presented by the party when it was in power.

That bill, he said, covered the prime minister.











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