19 December 2011

Cabinet Approval for Lokpal Bill Likely Today

The union cabinet is expected to meet today evening to consider the much-awaited Lokpal Bill that is likely to bring the prime minister as well as Group C government employees in its purview with some conditions.

Informed sources said the amended bill is likely to be brought to the Lok Sabha and the government will make an effort to pass the legislation in the winter session that concludes.

 Prime Minister Manmohan Singh held consultations with Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, Home Minister P. Chidambaram, Law Minister Salman Khurshid and Minister of State for Personnel V. Narayanasamy -- who had fine tuned the bill.

Sources said the prime minister is expected to scrutinse the bill before it is placed for cabinet approval.

The ministers involved in finalising the bill had a series of meetings throughout the day and also briefed the prime minister about its provisions after the cabinet meeting.

The sources said that the cabinet meet saw some deliberations on the legislation.

They said that the government is expected to agree to demand of Team Anna and the opposition for inclusion of prime minister in the Lokpal but with some riders.

They said there may not be blanket inclusion of Group C employees and the process is expected to be guided by proper procedures.

The Citizen's Charter is likely to have an "organic link" to the Lokpal, they added.

The sources said the government does not appear keen to place the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) under the Lokpal.

"There has to be synergy between various institutions of government," a cabinet minister said.

The government, however, is mulling an independent "directorate of prosecution", carving it out from the CBI.

Khurshid Sunday said that the government was working hard to meet the deadlines.

"You all know that how many days are left (for the parliament session to end). We have literally worked day and night to ensure that we meet the deadlines," he told reporters.

"Let us just get the bill done and bring it to the cabinet so that it can be brought before parliament as quickly as possible," he said.

Khurshid said the government was fine tuning the bill "to ensure that we take public confidence with us because we are also determined and committed to a very powerful Lokpal bill".

Anna Hazare has threatened to go on a hunger strike from December 27 if a strong Lokpal legislation is not enacted.

The legislation may also provide for 50 percent reservation to Scheduled Castes (SCs), Scheduled Tribes (STs), Other Backward Classes (OBCs), minorities and women.