Govt, civil members to meet today on Lokpal Bill

Government and civil society, the two sides will meet on Monday in a last ditch attempt to resolve contentious issues and hammer out a consensus on the Lokpal Bill. On the eve of the meeting of the Lokpal joint drafting committee - the eighth since April 16, Senior ministers held discussions for nearly three hours on Sunday evening to finetune the Government's strategy. The deliberations, chaired by Finance Minister and panel chairman Pranab Mukherjee, were attended by Union ministers Kapil Sibal, Salman Khurshid and Veerappa Moily - all members of the committee. Minister of State in PMO V Narayanaswamy also took part in the parleys. However, another member of the committee Home Minister P Chidambaram was not present as he was out of town. None of the ministers spoke to media after the meeting which lasted two hours and 45 minutes.
Monday's deliberations could be the last meeting of the joint committee and another round will be held on Tuesday if the discussions for an anti-corruption watchdog are not concluded on Monday. Karnataka Lokayukta Santosh Hegde, a member of the drafting committee, denied any split in the Anna Hazare camp and said he will attend the panel's meeting and backed the social activist's planned fast from August 16 after opposing it. After his comments on Hazare's fast and inability to take part in the meeting in Delhi fuelled speculation of differences among civil society representatives, Hegde said he will be present on June 21 to show there is 'no rift'. While the government has virtually ruled out bringing the post of the Prime Minister under the ambit of the anti-corruption watchdog, Congress core group has favoured convening an all-party meeting on the issue of inclusion of the PM. The Hazare camp is pressing for bringing the Prime Minister under Lokpal's purview. HRD Minister Kapil Sibal, a member of the Joint Drafting Committee, said the view within the government is that Prime Minister should not be included within the ambit of Lokpal. He, however, said once the PM demits office, he should not be "exonerated" from prosecution. Santosh Hegde however feels keeping the Prime Minister out of Lokpal till he demits office will not serve the purpose of having an effective investigation because there will not be any trail of any misconduct.