Reluctant to budge from their views, the government representatives and civil society members of the Joint Drafting Committee on the Lokpal Bill decided on Monday to leave the differences to be resolved at the next stage of wider consultations with political parties.
The government has decided to call an all-party meeting in July to elicit their opinion on the draft Bill and the divergence of opinions before giving a final shape to the Bill and presenting it to the Cabinet. It was decided to skip the June 30 deadline for submission of the draft to the government. The government, however, stressed that the Bill would be placed in Parliament during the coming monsoon session.
At the eighth and penultimate round of talks, the members made it a point to stress the cordiality during the proceedings, unlike in the past, the fruitfulness of the talks and the progress made. They apparently wanted to part amicably on the concluding day of the meeting on Tuesday, whether or not they bridged the gap on the six contentious issues.
There will be no meetings after Tuesday, when both sides will exchange their drafts and submit their comments. Further exchange of views will be made through e-mails, and a common draft will be presented along with the divergence of opinions on various issues.
Union Minister for Human Resource Development Kapil Sibal, who is also a member on the committee, said the proceedings were non-acrimonious, friendly, a major step forward and a breakthrough, on the basis of the broad range of agreement between the two sides.
The differences would be spelt out, and the areas of divergences and alternatives would be presented for being resolved through the political process to be initiated in July. On the basis of the outcome of the all-party meeting, the draft Bill would be presented to the Cabinet.
Anna Hazare, too, described the proceedings as good and said they were conducted in a cordial atmosphere. But he left it to Arvind Kejriwal and Prashant Bhushan to talk to the media. Both Mr. Kejriwal and Mr. Bhushan, too, said consensus was evolved on some issues, and the meeting was “almost good.” But they did not totally agree with Mr. Sibal's statement that there was an agreement on 80 to 85 per cent of the points raised. Consensus had been evolved on 11 issues, while another 15 to 20 issues were discussed, they said. Thus, consensus was to the extent of 60 to 70 per cent, but the areas were not serious in implication.
The contentious issues remained. As a matter of fact, only one of the thorny issues, relating to the structure of the Lokpal, figured at Monday's meeting. Other issues such as inclusion of office of the Prime Minister, the judiciary and the conduct of MPs in Parliament under the ambit of the Lokpal did not come up for discussion at all.