Keen to finish drafting of the anti-graft Lokpal Bill by June-end, the government and civil society representatives Saturday identified areas of agreement on the proposed legislation and said the new authority should be independent and have a transparent process of appointment.
The agreement on broad principles of legislation came almost a month after Gandhian Anna Hazare’s 97-hour fast at New Delhi’s Jantar Mantar for a strong anti-graft bill. The government had agreed to Hazare’s demand for a joint committee to draft the bill.
The committee, which has five representatives each from the government and the civil society, met Saturday for the third time since its creation. The two sides agreed on the Lokpal having powers to initiate investigation and prosecution.
However, the issue of bringing the prime minister and the judiciary under the purview of Lokpal was left for discussion at next meetings.
Civil society activist Prashant Bhushan said after the meeting that it was decided that Lokpal will be independent of the government and have full powers on recruitments.
“Lokpal will have powers to initiate investigation and prosecution and will not need permission from the government,” he said.
Arvind Kejriwal, another member of the panel, said the selection process will be broad based, transparent and participatory.
“Who all will be in selection committee is a matter of detail. There will be a search committee to assist the selection panel,” he said.
Kejriwal said only one-fourth of the bill has been discussed.
“The model on which the financial independence will be based is yet to be decided. Various models were discussed, including from other countries and of institutions like the Supreme Court, the Comptroller and Auditor General and the Central Vigilance Commission,” he said.
Communications and Information Technology Minister Kapil Sibal said the meeting was “exceptionally constructive”.
“The approach was very constructive. There were areas of broad agreement, including the process of appointment of Lokpal which should be transparent,” he said.
He said it was agreed that the authority should be independent and have financial independence.
“It was a good discussion. We identified areas of agreement and areas where elaborate discussion is required,” he said.
Sibal said the Lokpal should be a man of high integrity. He said the bill had tremendous implications as there were suggestions that states should emulate the proposed legislation for office of Lokayukta.
Sibal hoped that the draft legislation will be ready by June 30 and said that the next meeting will be held May 23.
Civil society members on the panel include Kejriwal, former Supreme Court judge Santosh Hegde, Hazare, former law minister Shanti Bhushan, who is the panel’s co-chairman, and his son Prashant Bhushan.
Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee heads the committee. It also includes Home Minister P. Chidambaram, Law Minister M. Veerappa Moily and Minority Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid, apart from Sibal.
The first meeting of the joint committee was held April 16 when a modified draft of the Jan Lokpal Bill, the activists’ version of the anti-graft legislation, was presented to the government.