Civil Society version: Details of Discussion at Lokpal bill drafting committee

The government’s intentions became very clear today. It wants to kill Lokpal before it were born. They want to create a Lokpal without any administrative or investigative machinery – an emaciated and disempowered Lokpal. Government says that it would be an eleven member body. Benches of these eleven members would take all decisions. Government says that Lokpal would have powers to receive public grievances from ordinary people. So, if an income tax officer demanded a bribe to give an income tax refund in Bangalore, the citizen will have to make a complaint to the eleven member body in Delhi and come to Delhi for hearings. “There would be thousands of complaints from across the country. How will these eleven members deal with it?” asked civil society members. The government did not reply. They just announced their decision. This is a sure way of killing Lokpal before it was born. We wanted a Lokpal with officers working under it at district level, who would have powers to deal with cases at local level. Government refuses to accept that model.   It was clear today that the government had already made up its mind. The talks were just a formality. Inside the committee, the civil society members keep arguing strenuously on each point and the government ministers simply announce their decisions, even if they do not have arguments. In the end, the government nominees suggested that we bring our version of Lokpal Bill in the next meeting, they would bring their version of Lokpal Bill. In the next meeting, they would see whether there could be consensus on any more issues. Finally two Bills will be sent to the Cabinet. We demanded copies of audio tapes of the proceedings so far. They refused. We said that we were committee members and should have a right to take copies of audio tapes of the proceedings. They said they could consider it after all the meetings were over. We said – “do you promise to give us copies of all tapes in the last meeting?” Again they were non-committal. It is really surprising why is the government hesitating in making the discussions public? Perhaps the world would come to know that the government has vetoed on practically all points without having any valid arguments.

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