‘We fixed the 30 June deadline to show that we mean business’

Salman Khurshid
Salman Khurshid
Lokpal joint committee member
Photo:Shailendra Pandey

How tough is it going to be to draft this Bill and meet civil society halfway?
It’s not an easy task because obviously there have been formulations in the past by the government and there is now a definitive formulation by this particular group of civil society. It’s too early to say where the meeting point will be but we are going into this in the hope that there is a meeting point and with the intention of arriving at a consensus.

Why didn’t the government put together a tough Bill on its own?
This Bill obviously had a long history and so much had happened since the Lokpal Bill was first talked about. For one we have the experience of the Lokayukta, which hasn’t necessarily been exciting. Secondly, the Supreme Court has been intervening from time to time as far as the CBI is concerned to make it functionally more autonomous. Then there’s been the Central Information Commission. So there have been things happening all along, most of which an overlap with the Lokpal.

There are critics of the civil society group in the drafting committee who want their voices to be heard. What’s your view?
If the government doesn’t have monopoly of wisdom, then no group will have monopoly of wisdom. I think this is understood. So how much of the inputs come from what part of civil society, all this will have to be seen. And this is obviously an important step forward towards fulfilling an aspiration that has now become a widely accepted aspiration. It’s a step forward.

Are you aware of some of the debates around the draft Bill and will you be taking some of those concerns on board? 
We should take a view that any sensible idea, all good ideas have to be taken on board. What finally emerges out of the dialogue in the committee will be there for the public to look at. Ultimately everything has to go to Parliament.

Is the 30 June deadline workable?
We have to work to some deadline and there is disquiet that so much time has gone by. It’s a deadline that’s not been dictated to us. It’s been fixed because we want to show that we mean business.

Are you afraid that if such and such is not done then Anna Hazare will go on fast again?
We are not looking at any ultimatums or threats. We are going in with an open mind, the intention being that the Lokpal Bill has to be got to Parliament. And the contents of the Lokpal Bill have to be acceptable to the whole country.

Revati Laul is a Correspondent with Tehelka


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