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Lokpal panel still divided on inclusion of PM

Wednesday November 30, 2011 10:36:15 PM, IANS

New Delhi: The parliamentary standing committee on law and justice, examining the Lokpal bill, Wednesday remained divided over bringing the prime minister under the anti-graft ombudsman even as Anna Hazare threatened to launch a protest if the legislation is not passed in the winter session which ends Dec 21.

Chairman of the panel Abhishek Manu Singhvi told NDTV news channel that among the three options being considered are to include the prime minister fully but defer prosecution, exclude him absolutely and to include him but with substantive exclusion on subject matter under the Lokpal.

"We have not reached the stage of adoption, rejection or dissension on the prime minister," he said.

But sources said opposition members from the Bharatiya Janata Party, the Communist Party of India and the Communist Party of India-Marxist plan to give dissent notes to the panel on the issue.

Interestingly, Lok Janshakti Party leader Ram Vilas Paswan has also given a dissent note to the panel asking reservation for Dalit, backwards and minorities in the Lokpal.

Besides bringing the prime minister under the Lokpal, the other issue to be resolved is inclusion of lower bureaucracy under the anti-graft ombudsman as demanded by Anna and a citizen's charter.

While there is general agreement on bringing Group A and B staff under the Lokpal, some opposition members want the Group C and D staff also to be under the anti-graft ombudsman.

There is general agreement on a constitutional status for the Lokpal, retaining the autonomy of the Central Bureau of Investigation and the Central Vigilance Commission, and keeping the judiciary out of its ambit, said sources.

Once the standing committee has submitted its recommendations to parliament, the government can introduce the Lokpal bill.

The development comes in the wake of reports that Anna Hazare plans to stage a day-long protest at Jantar Mantar Dec 11 demanding a strong Lokpal bill and an extended one at Ramlila Ground Dec 27-Jan 5 if the bill is not passed in the ongoing winter session of parliament.

Once the standing committee submits its recommendations to parliament, the government can introduce the new draft Lokpal bill.

"This is a conspiracy to weaken Lokpal Bill," said Anna.








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