The Union government on Friday distanced itself from the joint Lokpal Bill draft prepared by its representatives and Team Anna and maintained that it had no role in the exercise.
Union Law and Justice Minister Veerappa Moily said at a news conference that the draft, incorporating versions of both sides on some of the contentious issues can, at the most, be considered an input for the government in preparing the bill.
Mr. Moily's clarification came within minutes of his office circulating a comparative statement of the Lokpal Bill and the Jan Lokpal Bill and the variations in the two versions. It lists what has been termed ‘provisions of the Government Lokpal Bill' and identifies ‘the changes/variations in the Jan Lokpal Bill.'
When his attention was drawn to the wording in the statement, Mr. Moily said it was a ‘mistake' to have described the clauses suggested by the five government representatives as a government-endorsed bill.
In response to a question on the all-party meeting convened by the government on July 3 to discuss the various issues related to the Lokpal, he said the government had no draft bill to circulate. “The government may or may not circulate the two versions of the joint draft bill at or before the all-party meet.”
Mr. Moily said the government wanted to listen to the views of representatives of political parties on July 3 and consider them for incorporation when his Ministry begins preparation of the bill.
The Minister argued that there were several stages before a bill is prepared, approved by the Cabinet and commended to Parliament for approval. “The subject is very sensitive and requires inputs from several quarters. We cannot short-circuit the process.”
Asked about the bill proposed by his Ministry in 2010, he said it was very much there and the government would welcome more views. “We are ready for a constructive dialogue with all segments of society and will come out with a strong Lokpal Bill.”
He asserted that the government was committed to introducing the Lokpal Bill in the monsoon session of Parliament that was scheduled to commence on August 1.
Mr. Moily said he chose to circulate a comparative chart of the two versions of the draft as different narratives were put out by the media. “The government representatives have proposed much sounder and stronger clauses in the bill. The civil society representatives cannot be expected to have legal skills to draft a complex proposed legislation.”