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Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Tapes show government went back on assurance to Anna

Anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare may have got Parliament to agree in principle on some crucial provisions in the draft Jan Lokpal Bill, but excerpts from a set of audio tapes aired on a television channel on Monday revealed that the civil society and government members on the Joint Drafting Committee (JDC) differed on major issues.

The excerpts expose what the civil society members had been saying all along: the government side had agreed to place the draft Jan Lokpal Bill formulated by the civil society members, along with the official Lokpal Bill draft, before the Union Cabinet for consideration, but went back on its word.

Finally, what went before the Cabinet was only the government's draft with the civil society's draft ‘annexed' to it.

In the excerpts of the last meeting on June 21, JDC chairman Pranab Mukherjee is heard saying both drafts would be placed before the Cabinet.

When civil society member Arvind Kejriwal asked whether the Cabinet would select one of them, Mr. Mukherjee is heard saying, “both, or a combination of both.”

The minutes of the meeting recorded by the government say: “He [the chairman] assured that both the drafts would be submitted to the government for consideration before Cabinet approval is sought and prior to that a meeting is proposed to be held with the political parties and based on the outcome of such consultations, the administrative department would bring out the draft legislation in regular form incorporating all the views for Cabinet approval and for introduction of the Bill in Parliament thereafter.

“Shri Arvind Kejriwal sought clarification as to whether the Bill will be specific for the Centre only and whether one of the options, i.e., either the government's formulation or the formulation proposed by the civil society will be chosen for the final draft. The chairman confirmed that both the formulations would be considered for the draft.”

On appointment of Lokayuktas through the central legislation, Mr. Mukherjee is heard saying he had decided to seek the opinion of the States on this. The Punjab Chief Minister, for instance, had said that there was no need to have a separate law as they had their own Lokayukta.

Once again Mr. Kejriwal “submitted” that in setting up the Central and State Information Commissions through the RTI, the opinion of the States was not sought.

“That is your argument on why it should be or can be done,” Mr. Mukherjee said.

The 10-member JDC included five from civil society —Anna Hazare, Arvind Kejriwal, senior lawyers Shanti Bhushan (co-chairman) and Prashant Bhushan, and the former Karnataka Lokayukta, Santosh Hegde.

The government was represented by Mr. Mukherjee, Law Minister Salman Khursheed, Telecommunications Minister Kapil Sibal, the former Law Minister, Veerappa Moily, and Home Minister P. Chidambaram.

The panel was formed in response to Mr. Hazare going on fast at Jantar Mantar here, seeking an anti-corruption bill.

RTI activist S.C. Aggarwal, who secured the tapes from the government through his application (besides the television channel), will share them with Team Anna, it is understood.

Informed sources, however, clarified that the government had not released the tapes initially as the RTI Commissioner wanted to take the Law Ministry's opinion before allowing them to be made public.


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