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Pranab Rules Out Replacing Govt Lokpal Bill

PTI 26 Aug 2011, 21:40:13 IST
PTI

New Delhi, Aug 26: Government today ruled out replacing its Lokpal Bill with another, saying it will be better to have amendments to the one already introduced. 

“We are not thinking of replacing it (official bill) by a new bill because it will take time. It will be better to have amendments. After the Standing Committee recommends the amendments, there will be an opportunity for Parliament to reject it,” Finance Minister  Pranab Mukherjee told a TV talk show.

Saying he was “seriously worried” about Hazare's health, he appealed to him to end the fast.

He dismissed a suggestion that the government has been boxed into a corner, saying sometimes some actions of the government may not be liked by the people.

“It is nothing new but the current agitation is not good,” he said. 

Asked whether the amendments could substantially change the official bill, he said the legislation, which is under consideration of the Standing Committee, already has a large number of provisions of the Jan Lokpal Bill. 

“It could be improved but I do not want to say whether this will be substantially different or not,” he said. 

On the demand of the civil society for including lower bureaucracy in the Lokpal legislation, Mukherjee said the Jan Lokpal wants to cover right from Cabinet Secretary to Railway Gangman and Postman.

“It will be very difficult to manage. There is a question of practicality. Whenever you enact a law, it should be practical and it should be implementable.” He said the government had suggested that Lokpal could be made very powerful and independent with expenditure charged.

Asked whether the government has been shaken by Hazare's fast and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's authority has diminished, Mukherjee said, “I will not say that. It is for you people to judge. I am not giving any value judgement.”

He said the government wants that whatever is enacted should be appropriate and it has been doing it from day one in April, when Hazare undertook fast for the first time.  The government is “acting judiciously” with Hazare and its approach has been rational, he said.

Asked if the government regretted its position in view of the current situation, Mukherjee said, “where is the question for regret? I leave it to you. It is for you to judge.”

On whether he was worried that the current protest by Hazare would set a precedent, he said, “in a democratic country, protest is a right guaranteed by Constitution, provided there is no breakdown of law and order. It is nothing unusual.”

When pointed out that the civil society was adamant on Parliament passing a resolution approving their three demands, Mukherjee said eventually, the resolution has to be enacted into a law by Parliament.

“The resolution is only an expression of intent. It is not adequate. It has be enacted into a legislation. The due process of legislation cannot be bypassed,” he said, citing an instance of 1969-70 when the privy purses was abolished by a legislation after Parliament approved a private member's resolution.

The Minister expressed difficulty over the Parliament setting up Lokayuktas in States, saying when he wrote to 28 Chief Ministers on the subject, many of them replied that they would do it on their own while some said they already had.

At best, Parliament can only enact a model legislation which the states can follow if they want,he said. PTI