Govt confident of introducing Lokpal Bill in Monsoon Session
"We are very happy with the outcome of the all party meeting yesterday…we are confident we can take the process forward to bring the Bill in the Monsoon Session and pass it as soon as possible," Home Minister P Chidambaram said here.
He pointed out that yesterday`s all party meeting called by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh emphasised the primacy of the Parliamentary process and the role of political parties to pilot and approve legislations.
Chidambaram`s remarks reflected a sense of relief in the government which was so far battling the civil society led by Anna Hazare on the Lokpal issue alone while receiving flak from Opposition parties on the issue of corruption.
"We will therefore bring a Bill in the monsoon session of Parliament. That Bill will be examined. Every effort will be made to pass the Bill at the earliest. But that will depend on the members of Parliament and their desire to follow established procedures," Chidambaram said.
Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal made it very clear that the government had promised to bring the Lokpal Bill in the Parliament in the Monsoon Session but there was no commitment on the timeline of passing the same.
"We had said we are committed to bringing the Bill in the monsoon session. We never said it will be passed in the monsoon session," Sibal said.
The Minister also said that two parties which took part in the all party meeting suggested that the Bill could be passed in the Winter Session.
Supporting Chidambaram`s statement, Sibal said that BJP may be requiring more time to finalize a view on the provisions.
Chidambaram described as "preliminary views" opinions expressed by some political parties for or against bringing the Prime Minister and the judiciary under Lokpal`s ambit.
"Our impression is that all these views are subject to change when we go through the procedures," Chidambaram said.
Going a step further Sibal said, "Many of these voices that you hear will merge into the consensus."
Chidambaram downplayed UPA ally DMK`s strong assertion that both Prime Minister and the judiciary should be brought under Lokpal and refused to see a "divide" in the alliance.
"UPA is not a political party. It`s a coalition of political parties. When you have more than one party, you may have different views on some issues. That does not mean that the UPA is divided," Chidambaram said.
He said as long as there is a broad consensus on the Bill, there is nothing to be alarmed, and suggested the government has no problem even if some allies express different views on some provisions of the Bill.
Sibal pointed out that leaders of many political parties wondered at the definition of the civil society and wanted to know whether five members led by Hazare represented the entire civil society of India.
Sibal pointed out that NDA ally Akali Dal has opposed the inclusion of Prime Minister under Lokpal and said that one of the parties also felt that there should be no Lokpal at all.
"These are all matters of discussion," he said when asked about the DMK`s stand on the issue.
The ministers said all the parties that attended the meeting favoured preparing the Bill in accordance with the Constitution.
"Whatever laws are to be made, should be within the Constitution. This is not an occasion to rewrite the Constitution," Chidambaram said.
The ministers, however, evaded a direct reply when asked about the proposed fast by Anna Hazare from August 16 if the government did not bring a "proper" Lokpal Bill in Parliament.
"I do not think we need to assume that there will be a fast and it will be from August 16. I am sure that the Bill that the government will introduce in Parliament will satisfy a vast majority of people," Chidambaram said.
Echoing similar views, Sibal expressed confidence that people will accept the Bill brought by the government.
Asked about government being attacked by political parties for involving the civil society members in drafting of the Bill, Chidambaram said in those circumstances it was felt that taking Hazare`s team on-board was a better proposition.
When asked about Prime Minister`s remarks on his inclusion in the ambit of Lokpal, Sibal said the issue pertains to an institution and its interests have to be upheld.
Parliamentary Affairs Minister P K Bansal said that the government was open to suggestions from every segment of the society, including journalists.