Parliamentary consensus not binding on standing committee: Pranab’s statement

The Parliament will not give a binding directive to the standing committee to go by the consensus that may emerge at the end of discussions today, according to the statement made by Pranab Mukherjee to start off the discussion in Lok Sabha today.

Kicking the discussions off, Pranab Mukherjee, the senior most Congress leader, said today’s Parliamentary discussion will focus on the inclusion of the entire bureaucracy, the state Lokayukt and the Lokpal’s power to punish violators of anti-corruption laws.

He hoped that the Parliament will be able to achieve a consensus by the evening on these three topics. However, he said, the standing committee may or may not take up the consensus expressed by the Parliament today, depending on various factors.

“After the discussion, we can arrive, if possible, at a consensus.. The standing Committee shall take into account the practicability, implement-ability and constitutionality” of the consensus expressed by the Parliament today. Depending on their practicability, the standing committee shall include or exclude the suggestions of the Parliament today.

The following are the three issues for debate today:

1)Coverage over all members of the Government within Lokpal

2) Status of State Lokayukt within Lokpal

3) Power to punish within Lokpal

Giving history, Pranab said that when he met the Anna group on 23rd August in the evening, the Civil Society group wanted a new bill not to be referred to the Standing Committee, he pointed out. This was rejected on 24th August meeting between himself and the Anna Hazare group.

He also explained the following as the major issues of disagreement between the two groups as emerging from the various meetings of the joint drafting committee in May and June.

1) Lokayukt within Lokpal

2) PM, Senior Judges, conduct of MPs (speaking and voting in the House) within Lokpal ambit

3) Definition and quasi-judicial powers of Lokpal

He pointed out that the BJP and other parties had expressed its disapproval at the way in which the government was going about drafting the Lokpal bill, pointing out in a letter that the MPs and parties were “decision makers, not suggestion-givers.” Other parties, such as the Left and Samajwadi Party also upbraided the Government for lowering their value by sending a questionnaire instead of including them in the law-making process.

He pointed out that the All Party meeting had urged that the Government should bring strong and effective bill in the Monsoon session of Parliament “following the established procedure.”

He pointed out that the Government did prepare a bill for presentation before the Parliament. “Unfortunately, even before the bill could be introduced before the Parliament, Anna Hazare’s friends starting burning the bill.”

Pranab Mukherjee also appealed to Hazare to stop his fast.