Government not sincere on Lokpal bill, Jaitley tells Hazare

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New Delhi, Dec 11 (IANS) The government is not sincere in getting the Lokpal bill passed in parliament, BJP leader Arun Jaitley has told social activist Anna Hazare, while conveying his party’s desire to pursue the legislation with sincerity.

In a letter to the social activist who has started an indefinite agitation for passage of the Lokpal bill, Jaitley said the government used its majority in the Lok Sabha to approve the bill Dec 27, 2011 to create a Lokpal “not as an independent institution but as a government controlled entity”.

Jaitley, Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, wrote the letter Tuesday in response to Hazare’s letter sent to him Nov 30.

He said the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had made several proposals to the select committee of Rajya Sabha formed after the Lokpal bill came to the house but the government diluted the panel’s recommendations.

“I am writing to you to remove any possibility of misunderstanding on this issue which is indicated in your letter. My party and I am fully committed to the highest norms of public accountability and, therefore, believe that the Lokpal should be brought into force immediately,” Jaitley said.

He said the bill passed in December 2011 by Lok Sabha was “neither the Jan Lokpal nor had it measured to our expectations”.

“Surely, creation of a ‘sarkari’ Lokpal could not be your objective or ours,” the BJP leader said.

He said the bill was taken up in Rajya Sabha Dec 29, 2011, and the entire opposition rallied against the provisions of the bill passed in the Lok Sabha as it sought to create a “sarkari Lokpal”.

He said the BJP was committed to passing the legislation and had suggested major amendments to make the Lokpal a credible institution but the Rajya Sabha was adjourned by the chairman.

“We had the numbers on our side if those amendments would have been carried out. However, the chairman of Rajya Sabha chose to adjourn the house sine die thus denying the country an opportunity where one house passed the bill for creation of a credible Lokpal institution,” Jaitley said.

He said the amended bill could have gone back to the Lok Sabha.

Jaitley said the bill was later referred to the select committee and the BJP submitted its proposals, many of whom were accepted by the panel.

He said the report of the committee was placed before parliament but the government “has erroneously chosen to place the report before the cabinet Jan 31, 2013 and further diluted the recommendation”.

Jaitley said he had taken a position on the issue and also raised the issue in the upper house in March this year.

“Even then, this diluted bill was not being listed on the agenda for discussion. It appears that the government is not sincere in getting it placed on the said agenda,” Jaitley said.

Jaitley appended with his letter contents of his speeches on the Lokpal bill in the upper house, the BJP’s representation to the select committee and an article written by him on the issue.

“I can assure you in view of the public position my party has adopted that we will be second to none in pursuing this issue,” Jaitley said.

Hazare Wednesday launched an indefinite hunger strike in his Ralegan Siddhi village in Maharashtra to press for the passage of the Lokpal bill by parliament.

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