New Delhi: Admitting that the government was in a "bind" from which it has to come out, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said on Wednesday night that "practical and pragmatic" solutions have to be found to the Lokpal issue. Read more: UPA faces fire in LS on corruption Take back Lokpal Bill, bring new draft: Sushma Emerging from an all-party meeting, called by the government to evolve consensual approach on the Lokpal, said the Bharatiya Janata Party leader said her party told the government it should have two aims at this point in time -- to present a strong and effective Lokpal bill and to persuade activist Anna Hazare to end his nine-day fast. 'In order to find solutions in a difficult circumstance, sometimes the processes can be overlooked. The government should take back its Lokpal bill and bring in a new draft bill keeping in mind the Jan Lokpal bill,' Sushma Swaraj told reporters adding, 'There has to be a national consensus on the Lokpal bill.' He made the announcement during a debate on corruption in the upper house of parliament. The official Lokpal bill, which has already been moved in the Lok sabha, does not have these provisions as the government does not want an overbearing institution without any accountability, sources on the treasury benches said. JPN/Agencies
However, the Prime Minister indicated that the government does not favour withdrawal of the Lokpal Bill already introduced by it in Parliament and being considered by a Standing Committee.
Singh shook his head to indicate this when asked whether the government would accept the demand of major opposition parties for withdrawal of the government Bill and its
replacement by a fresh Bill incorporating clauses from drafts from various quarters.
Singh said Hazare should listen to the unanimous sentiment of all parties and end his fast.
"All-party meeting has appealed that Hazare should end his fast. We hope he will listen to the unanimous sentiment of all parties," the Prime Minister said interacting with reporters at an Iftaar organised at his residence.
On the deadline set by Team Anna on passage of the Janlokpal Bill in Parliament, Singh said it was their suggestion. "It does not mean we accept everything". He said there was scope for give and take on the Lokpal issue.
"I am hopeful but it will require efforts of everybody. Everybody will have to pool in their wisdom," he said adding a "practical and pragmatic solution has to be found".
However, all party meeting has appealed to Hazare to end his fast. Prime Minister in the meeting said we hope he will listen to our unanimous sentiments, adding “I have always been in favour of inclusion of PM in Lokpal, but my experienced colleagues say it will not be Desirable.”
The meeting issued a joint statement saying that due consideration should be given to Team Anna's Jan Lokpal bill so that the final draft of the legislation provides for a 'strong and effective' ombudsman.
“The meeting of all parties in Parliament requests Shri Anna Hazare to end his fast. The meeting was also of the view that due consideration should be given to the Jan Lokpal bill so that the final draft of the Lokpal Bill provides for a strong and effective Lokpal which is supported by a broad national consensus,” the statement said.
Want spirit of cooperative engagement: PM
Earlier, Prime Minister affirmed his commitment for a strong and effective Lokpal and wanted the Gandhian to work with the government in a "spirit of cooperative engagement" in this regard.
In his opening remarks at the all party meeting, Singh said Hazare's fast and "failing health" are a matter of concern and that was why he took a personal initiative yesterday to appeal to him to end his hunger strike.
Seeking "guidance" from the political parties on "way forward" amid Hazare's campaign, he said the Hazare team had demanded that their version of Lokpal be introduced in Parliament in four days and passed during this session, even if means extension, without referring it to the Standing Committee.
He said Hazare's team also wanted written commitments from the government before they could "hopefully persuade" him to stop his fast.
"Yesterday, I felt that I should take 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," Singh said.
Noting that he had personally stated the Government's position in public on more than one occasion, he said, "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." "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," the PM said.
Apparently referring to Hazare's campaign, he said, "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."
Singh said he had written to Hazare yesterday, requesting him to end his fast and reiterated government's intention to pass the "best possible" Lokpal Bill with inputs from Civil Society and on the basis of the "broadest possible consensus".
After the letter, Hazare agreed to hold discussions with the government, he said, adding Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Law Minister Salman Khurshid accordingly met three representatives of the civil activist to "find a way out of the present impasse".
Giving brief details of these talks, Singh said broadly the position of the Hazare team was that government should withdraw the Bill introduced in Parliament and the Jan Lokpal Bill be introduced with "some changes" in Parliament within four days.
The Hazare team also wanted that the Bill be discussed and passed during the current session of Parliament by extending it, if necessary, with "minor amendments" adopted by Parliament and without referring the Bill to Standing Committee.
"If a written commitment can be given with timelines, then the representatives said they can hopefully persuade Annaji to stop his fast," he said. Referring to his letter, Singh said he had pointed out that the matter was with the Parliamentary Standing Committee which was entitled to consider not only the Bill introduced by the government but the Jan Lokpal Bill and other versions like that prepared by another civil activist Aruna Roy as well.
He noted that he had told Hazare that the government was prepared to request Lok Sabha Speaker to formally refer the Jan Lokpal Bill also to the Standing Committee for its "holistic consideration" along with everything else.
Recounting that he had convened an all-party meeting on July 3 where it was agreed that a strong Lokpal Bill should be enacted to deal with corruption, Singh said a legislation prepared accordingly by the government was currently with the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Law and Justice.
PM should be brought under Lokpal: CPM
Pushing for inclusion of Prime Minister in Lokpal's ambit "with adequate safeguards", the CPI-M on Wednesday insisted that all public servants should fall within the ombudsman's purview.
Noting that a "nexus of big corporates, politicians and bureaucrats have matured under the neo-liberal regime and is threatening to subvert our democracy", the party said firm steps, including creation of the Lokpal, need to be taken to break this nexus.
"It is clear that the current economic regime has made our system more vulnerable to cronyism and criminality. ...Only a comprehensive systemic reform can effectively curb corruption", senior CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury said at the all-party meeting on corruption and Lokpal here.
Maintaining that the system to scrutinise MPs on corrupt practices was now "weak and unsatisfactory", the CPI(M) said the real issue was how to ensure that their freedom and protection does not extend to acts of corruption.
"This can be done through an amendment to Article 105, on the lines recommended by the National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution", it said. Regarding the accountability of judiciary, the CPI(M) suggested that complaints about corruption against judges of Supreme Court and High Courts should be handled by a separate body -- the National Judicial Commission.
This Commission should take care of the appointments in the higher judiciary and oversee their conduct and enquire into the complaints of corruption", it said, maintaining that the Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill, 2010, which is before Parliament, was "woefully inadequate".
The CPI(M) note also recommended a law to protect the Citizens Charter for redressal of public grievances, creation of Lokayuktas in all states to cover all public servants at the state-level, electoral reforms to check money power in elections, apart from steps to unearth black money and to confiscate the funds illegally stashed away in tax havens.
The Lokpal institution should conform to the basic structure of Constitution that separates powers between legislature, executive and judiciary, the CPI(M) said.
Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj on Wednesday demanded the government should take back its Lokpal bill and introduce a new draft incorporating provisions of the Jan Lokpal bill of Team Anna.
She also appealed to Hazare to end his fast.
Jan Lokpal bill sent to standing committee
The Jan Lokpal bill drafted by Team Anna has been sent to the Parliamentary Standing Committee, Minister of State in the Prime Minister's Office V. Narayansamy told the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday.
Activist Anna Hazare, fasting for nine days against the government's Lokpal bill - currently being examined by the standing committee - has been stressing that the government introduce and pass the Jan Lokpal bill by Aug 30.
Team Anna's bill proposes to bring the office of the prime minister, judiciary and the lower bureacracy under the Lokpal in cases related to corruption.
The government sending the Jan Lokpal bill to the standing committee means that further consultations on the issue would be held to arrive at a final legislation incorporating all the aspects, these sources said.
A Congress MP from Uttar Pradesh had submitted Team Hazare's bill to the standing committee, while the National Campaign for People's Right to Information had also submitted their version of the Lokpal bill to the panel. BJP Lok Sabha member Varun Gandhi too said he would present the Jan Lokpal bill as a private member's bill in the lower house of parliament.
New Delhi: Admitting that the government was in a "bind" from which it has to come out, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said on Wednesday night that "practical and pragmatic" solutions have to be found to the Lokpal issue.
Read more: UPA faces fire in LS on corruption
Take back Lokpal Bill, bring new draft: Sushma
Emerging from an all-party meeting, called by the government to evolve consensual approach on the Lokpal, said the Bharatiya Janata Party leader said her party told the government it should have two aims at this point in time -- to present a strong and effective Lokpal bill and to persuade activist Anna Hazare to end his nine-day fast.
'In order to find solutions in a difficult circumstance, sometimes the processes can be overlooked. The government should take back its Lokpal bill and bring in a new draft bill keeping in mind the Jan Lokpal bill,' Sushma Swaraj told reporters adding, 'There has to be a national consensus on the Lokpal bill.'
He made the announcement during a debate on corruption in the upper house of parliament.
The official Lokpal bill, which has already been moved in the Lok sabha, does not have these provisions as the government does not want an overbearing institution without any accountability, sources on the treasury benches said.