Govt open to suggestions on Lokpal: Moily

New Delhi, April 6 (Agencies): The government has said it is open to any suggestion on Anna Hazare’s proposed anti-corruption legislation and had not turned down the social activist’s demand for a joint committee – of government officials and civilians – to frame a fresh one. Law Minister M Veerappa Moily said the government was open to suggestions even though it was “anxious to introduce the Lokpal Bill in the next session”. He said the government “did not say no” to Hazare’s demand for a joint committee to draft the Bill after a sub-committee of the Group of Ministers (GoM) on corruption held discussions with representatives of Hazare and other members of civil society.
“Even on the demand for a joint committee, we said we were open. We never closed our mind even on the formation of a joint committee... In principle, we did not say no,” Moily said adding that the Prime Minister was open to all suggestions on the Bill. He said though the Bill has already been drafted, it will not “find a finality” unless it goes to the Parliamentary Standing Committee. “The Standing Committee can always throw it open to discussions and deliberations with everyone. No Bill is passed in a hide-and-seek manner. Parliament has the most transparent way of functioning in our country,” Moily said. 72-year-old Hazare is observing a fast-unto-death demanding the enactment of an anti-corruption Bill to give wider powers to the Ombudsman. He is pressing for a joint committee comprising 50 per cent officials and remaining citizens and intellectuals to draft the Bill.
The Congress however has stuck to its stand that Hazare’s fast – on the second day Wednesday – was premature as the government was open to all suggestions. “The fast by Anna Hazare was premature and in a democracy debates should be held before a policy is framed,” party spokesperson Jayanthi Natarjan told reporters here. Hazare has slammed the Congress for “misleading” the people by dubbing his agitation as unnecessary and premature. Natarajan said, “While many people won’t agree on the Lokpal Bill and have different shades of opinion on the issue, the National Advisory Council and other fora are already discussing the proposed legislation... the far-reaching changes suggested by Hazare need broad discussions before a final draft can be arrived at.”
At the same time, she added that “no timeframe can be set” for taking such decisions as they require wider consultations. The party had yesterday too termed the indefinite hunger strike by Hazare as “premature”, saying the government had already constituted a panel headed by Defence Minister A K Antony to go into the issue. Meanwhile, party spokesperson Manish Tewari said Hazare should “reconsider his stand (of fast-unto-death) and accept the government’s offer of a constructive dialogue.” “The Prime Minister of India has enormous respect for the cause Anna Hazare advances and advocates. However, these are complex issues. What should be the Ombudsman, what should be the character of the Lokpal? And ultimately it is for the government to propose a legislation and for Parliament to dispose it and between that two, there is enough room for civil society to give their inputs,” Tewari said.
He said, “We personally hold Hazare in high esteem but given that these are complex government issues and there are enough planes and joints to give inputs, he should reconsider his stand...,” Tewari said. The Congress spokesperson refused to comment on reports that a section of Congress suspects Hazare was doing this at the behest of RSS. “We never dignify rumours and speculation with a response. At the highest level of the government, it has been underlined and underscored that none less than the Prime Minister of India has enormous respect for the cause Hazare advances and advocates,” he said.
Hazare asks PM to show courage on Lokpal issue
New Delhi, April 6 (PTI): Anti-corruption activist Anna Hazare on Wednesday shot off a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, slamming the reaction of his government and Congress to his indefinite fast on Lokpal Bill issue, and urged him to show courage to take unprecedented steps to fight the menace.
Responding to Congress’ criticism that his protest was “premature”, 72-year-old Hazare said authorities resort to “malicious slandering” whenever cornered and asserted that he was not a kind of person who could be “instigated” into going on an indefinite fast. He alleged that “their spokespersons are misleading the nation”. Hazare, who launched his fast-unto-death here on Tuesday, told reporters that he was willing to join a committee on the bill issue only if Congress chief Sonia Gandhi was a member of it, maintaining that any other such body would lack powers.
Referring to criticism of his protest, Hazare said in the letter, “Dear Manmohan Singhji, this is an insult to my sense of wisdom and intelligence. I take advice from many friends and critics but do what my conscience directs me to do. “It is my experience that when cornered, governments resort to such malicious slandering. I am pained that the government, rather than addressing the issue of corruption, is trying to allege conspiracies when there are none,” he said. In the letter, Hazare said the activists were not asking for accepting the Bill drafted by them but create a “credible platform” -- a joint committee with at least half members from civil society.
“Your spokespersons are misleading the nation when they say that there is no precedent for setting up a joint committee. At least seven laws in Maharashtra were drafted by similar joint committees and presented in state Assembly. “Even at the Centre, when 25,000 tribals came to Delhi two years ago, your government set up a joint committee on land issues within 48 hours. You (Singh) yourself are the Chairperson of that Committee. This means the government is willing to set up joint committees on all other issues but not corruption. Why?” he said in the letter. Addressing the press at the protest site at Jantar Mantar here, Hazare said there is a talk of joint committee but they are constituting such a committee without any powers.
“Is (Congress chief) Sonia Gandhi in there? We will not go to any committee which does not have any powers. Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan requested me to attend the committee. If Sonia is ready to attend the meeting, we are ready. If she is not ready, why should we go,” he said. Hazare, however, said Singh is a “good man” who is not tainted by corruption. “Remote control se gadbadi hote hei. (The problems are created when a remote control operates ),” he said.