New Delhi: Slamming the claim that the Civil Society's proposed ombudsman will be a virtual parallel government, veteran Gandhian Anna Hazare on Wednesday accused the government of trying to mislead the people.

“We have an Election Commission and the government can't interfere in its function. We have the Supreme Court and the Right to Information (RTI) Act which they cannot interfere in,” Hazare said here.

“Just like them, the Lokpal should also be beyond government's interference,” he said, adding the government's claims were an attempt to 'mislead the people'.

“The government is trying to create misunderstanding in the minds of the people before our fast, which will be the second struggle for freedom,” he said.

Hazare has vowed to launch a hunger strike from August 16 at Jantar Mantar in the heart of the capital.

It was after his first fast, which lasted five days and triggered widespread support in the country, that the government set up a 10-member panel to frame an effective Lokpal bill.

After Tuesday's last meeting between the government and the Civil Society, Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal had said that while the government wanted a strong Lokpal, “we cannot have a parallel government”.

Hazare said it was also important to bring the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) under the Lokpal to uproot corruption in the country.

“The CBI has investigated so many corruption cases but how many ministers have gone to jail since independence? This is because the government has full control over the CBI. That is why despite corruption ministers don't go to jail,” Hazare said.

“This is why the CBI should be brought under the Lokpal. This is what we are demanding,” he added.

Saying the government had 'turned back on its words’, Hazare sought support for his proposed hunger strike.

Anna points missing from Centre draft

Powers to tap phones, issuance of letters rogatory and recommendations for changes in work practices to reduce scope for corruption are among the proposals made by the Anna Hazare team in their Jan Lokpal Bill which do not find a mention in the government draft.

The draft submitted to the joint committee on Lokpal bill by the Hazare team also seeks power to the proposed ombudsman to acquire modern equipment necessary for proper investigation and inquire into the assets declaration statements filed by all MPs.

According to the Jan Lokpal Bill, an appropriate bench of Lokpal shall be deemed to be "designated authority under Section V of the Indian Telegraph Act empowered to approve interception and monitoring of messages of data or voice transmitted through telephones, Internet or any other medium..."

In the powers and functions of the Lokpal and its officers section of the civil society's draft, the ombudsman can authorise a bench of the Lokpal to issue letters rogatory in relation to any case pending investigation.

This provision is in contrast to the stand taken by the Hazare team in the fourth meeting of the joint drafting committee held on May 23 when lawyer Shanti Bhushan clarified that the intent was to allow Lokpal to directly approach the court for letters rogatory and not to route such requests through the government.

Bhushan's comment came after Home Minister P Chidambaram pointed out that the powers of issuance of letters rogatory were within the domain of the courts. A letter rogatory is a formal request from a court to a foreign court for some type of judicial assistance.

According to the Civil Society draft, Lokpal should have powers to make recommendations to public authorities, to make changes in their work practices to reduce the scope of corruption and whistle blower victimisation.

Their draft makes it mandatory that public authorities should send its "compliance report to Lokpal within two months of specifying detailed reasons, wherever they choose to or reject any of these recommendations".

The civil society draft also seeks power for the Lokpal to recommend cancellation or modification of a lease, licence, permission, contract or agreement, if it was obtained by corrupt means and blacklisting of a firm, company or contractor or any other person involved in corruption.

On the merger of anti-corruption wing of CBI into Lokpal, the Hazare team's draft says that the Centre shall cease to have any control over this unit. Earlier, the Civil Society side has been demanding the merger of Central Vigilance Commission into the Lokpal but it does not find mention in their new draft.

The government has been arguing that shifting of the CBI under the umbrella of the Lokpal would deny its own investigative wing for taking care of other issues.

The civil society draft also provides for immunity to bribe giver if he "voluntarily and gives timely" information to the Lokpal about the giving of the bribe him with entire evidence for getting the bribe taker caught and convicted".

On the panel to select Lokpal, the Civil Society draft says it should consist of the Prime Minister, Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha, two judges from Supreme Court, two High Court Chief Justices, Chief Election Commissioner, CAG and all previous chairpersons of Lokpal.

All-party meeting on Lokpal on July 3

An all-party meeting to discuss the government and Civil Society drafts on the proposed Lokpal Bill will be held on July 3.

The government will present two versions of the anti-corruption bill before the political parties following major differences on several key issues such as exclusion of the Prime Minister from the purview of the ombudsman.

The all-party meeting has been convened on July 3, government sources said here today.

After nine meetings spread over months, the Civil Society and the government failed to arrive at a common draft on the bill on Tuesday. The drafts of the government and Civil Society will be circulated among political parties in the meeting before being taken up by the Union Cabinet.

The government draft has ruled out scrutiny of Prime Minister, higher judiciary and the conduct of MPs in Parliament by the Lokpal.

However, it proposes several critical powers conferring quasi-judicial status to Lokpal besides powers to attach assets, independent prosecution and investigation machinery
with full police powers under the proposed ombudsman.

(Agencies)