Amid growing clamour for a robust Lokpal institution by a broad political spectrum and vocal demonstration of street power by anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Saturday said there was a ‘lot of scope for give-and-take' on the draft Bill presented by the government in the Lok Sabha. It had since been referred to the Standing Committee.
In a brief question-answer session with the media after presiding over the full Planning Commission meeting at his official residence here, Dr. Singh said the government was ready to enlist the cooperation of all thinking segments of public opinion to put in place ‘a strong and effective' Lokpal to deal with corruption.
His comments came on the fifth day of fast by Mr. Hazare, who has set a deadline of August 30 to Parliament to get his version of the Lokpal Bill passed. Dr. Singh's statement acquires significance with the announcement by nine non-NDA parties and the NDA for separate all-India protests on August 23 and 25 against corruption.
The Prime Minister parried a question on the August 30 ultimatum by Mr. Hazare, saying the Bill was now the property of Parliament. His stand was that the government was open to inputs from all sections within and outside the ambit of Parliament.
Dr. Singh said the effort was to forge a consensus to ensure that “the end product is a strong and effective Lokpal, which all sections of our community want.”
Conceding that there are difficulties in reconciling different viewpoints, he maintained that there was a logic of the legislative process.
“And I would not like to say anything that would controvert anything that has been said by anyone else. But I hope that people will appreciate that there is a dynamic of the legislative process which takes time, sometimes, to get over.”
The substance of Dr. Singh's comments was not much different from his address to the nation from the ramparts of the Red Fort on Independence Day .
Unlike what he said on Monday, he articulated the government position on Saturday in a nuanced fashion. Neither did he revisit his exhortation to those who disagreed with the proposed legislation not to resort to hunger strikes and fast-unto-death nor did he repeat the charge of forces within and outside the country working to destabilise the country.
Separately, Abhishek Singhvi, Congress MP who heads the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Law and Justice tasked to examine the Lokpal Bill, said: “No time limit can be accurately specified” for giving the report except that the reference to the panel initially was for three months.
Team Anna's demand
He declined to be dragged into the demands by Team Anna saying: “I do not wish to comment on the views of others. All I can say is that this multi-party committee resembling a mini-Parliament will assiduously look into every aspect with a completely open mind.”
The committee, through advertisements in the media, has already invited suggestions from any quarter in writing and extended invitation to depose before it with any material with a guarantee that it would be treated as confidential.