India’s PM promises to pass Lokpal Bill in current session


NEW DELHI — Promising all efforts to get the Lokpal Bill passed in the current session of Parliament, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said it will be brought before the Cabinet. The government is working “day and night” to give shape to the bill, he told reporters on his way back from Moscow. As Anna Hazare upped the ante on the Lokpal issue, Singh said his government will make all efforts to pass the bill in the ongoing session and that there should be no doubt about the government’s sincerity in this regard. “We are working day and night to give shape to the bill and it is my hope that we should be able to bring the bill to the Cabinet,” he said. Singh said after a Cabinet decision the government will be ready to take the bill to Parliament. Government sources in New Delhi affirmed that a meeting of the Cabinet scheduled for Monday, has been advanced to Sunday evening to take up the Lokpal Bill, along with another key legislation, the food security bill. Considering the sensitivity of the Lokpal legislation, fine-tuning is being done by an informal group of ministers, including finance minister Pranab Mukherjee, home minister P Chidambaram, law minister Salman Khurshid and MoS, personnel, V Narayanasamy.

While the bill will see incorporation of recommendations made by the Parliamentary Standing Committee which examined it, the government has said it is open to other ideas that emanated at the all-party meet convened by Singh on Wednesday. This is likely to include bringing the prime minister under the ombudsman’s purview with certain conditions. Anna Hazare wrote a fresh letter to the PM saying doubts have arisen over the passage of Lokpal Bill in this Parliament session and threatened to go ahead with his proposed fast and Jail Bharo agitation if it is not done.

Hazare, in his letter, said: “… despite your promises, if a strong, independent and effective Bill is not passed in the session, I will be forced to sit on a fast from Dec. 27. Jail Bharo agitation will start from Dec. 30.” Hazare had earlier said the Jail Bharo will be undertaken from 1 Jan. if the Lokpal Bill is not passed in the ongoing session. Hazare was harsher on the government when he spoke to a crowd at Bangalore’s Freedom Park today, asking it to quit if it cannot bring an effective Lokpal Bill and accusing it of “cheating” the country by doing a volte-face on its promises. He dismissed the draft legislation offered by the government as “worthless”.