Diverse committee for Lokpal Bill secured
New Delhi: The newly constituted joint committee set up to draft the Lokpal Bill will hold its first round of meetings tomorrow amid controversy over whether the prime minister should be brought under its ambit.
It is going to be a rare occasion when representatives of the civil society actively participate in drafting laws of the land.
The committee was constituted through a Law Ministry notification following which social activist Anna Hazare broke his hunger strike at Delhi's Jantar Mantar last week.
The 10-member panel, with five representatives each of the government and civil society has been asked to submit a draft of the proposed Bill by June 30, so that it can be introduced and passed during the upcoming Monsoon session of Parliament.
Hazare wants the Lokpal Bill to be passed before August 15, India's Independence Day, failing which he has threatened to start another round of sit-in protests at Red Fort, where the Prime Minister addresses the nation.
"We are committed to introducing the Lokpal Bill in the Monsoon session. It is up to the political parties. If all of them agree for its introduction and passage, we welcome such a move...government is anxious for its early passage," Law Minister Veerappa Moily, convenor of the panel, said.
Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee is the chairman of the committee. Besides Mukherjee and Moily, Home Minister P Chidambaram, Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal and Water Resources Minister Salman Khurshid are the other government nominees.
Former Law Minister Shanti Bhushan (co-chairman), his advocate son Prashant Bhushan, Anna Hazare, former Supreme Court judge N Santosh Hegde and social artist Arvind Kejriwal are to be the civil society nominees on the panel.
The committee is packed with lawyers as Sibal, Chidambaram and Khurshid are all lawyers by qualification.
Acrimonious words have been exchanged between Sibal and Hazare even before the committee's first meeting. Hazare took strong exception to Sibal's suggestion that the Lokpal Bill cannot provide children education or the masses healthcare and asked Sibal to quit if he did not have faith in the committee.
Sibal has since retracted and said he was misquoted on this issue. Observers feel some acrimony could be witnessed even in the committee meeting, particularly over whether prime ministers should also be brought under its ambit.