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    First Lokpal Bill draft meeting audio recorded

    New Delhi: Eight days after Gandhian Anna Hazare called off his fast demanding a stronger Lokpal law, the joint committee to draft the bill met on Saturday for the first time amid a controversy over a CD allegedly involving eminent lawyer and panel co-chairman Shanti Bhushan. The meeting of the 10 member Lokpal Bill committee - of five ministers and five civil society representatives including Anna Hazare - was held on Saturday. Kapil Sibal, one of the members, said the meeting was audio-recorded.The government seems to have come half way to meet a key bowed to the demands of civil society. Government sources said the draft presented by civil society is more practical. It has now removed the reference to suspension of cabinet ministers and judges. It also does not mention the Lokpal having appointing and disciplinary authorities. This was one of the demands of the civil society representatives. Sibal said all the issues were discussed and the bill will be introduced in the monsoon session of parliament. The meeting chaired by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee was held at North Block and attended by Ministers P Chidambaram, Kapil Sibal, M Veerappa Moily and Salman Khurshid and Hazare, Arvind Kejriwal, Santosh Hegde, Shanti Bhushan and Prashant Bhushan from the civil society side.Santosh Hedge also said the meeting was fruitful and that the next meeting of the panel will be held on May 2. Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and former Law Minister Shanti Bhushan chaired the meet.Congress leader Kapil Sibal said, "Its a historic event, the atmosphere in which discussions took place was conducive."Saturday's meeting was held in the backdrop of reservations voiced by politicians earlier. LK Advani had said that the power to make laws rests with politicians.It is perhaps this need for a political consensus which forced both the sides to have a meeting ground.Sources have said the new draft brought in by civil society at Saturday's meeting has dropped some contentious clauses.According to the draft, the Prime Minister and the leader of party will be on the commiittee which will choose the Lokpal.It also says that the Lokpal will not have the power to suspend Cabinet ministers and judges. In case government refuses to transfer an officer as suggested by the Lokpal, it's the Lokpal who will have to approach court to appeal.The appointing and disciplinary authority of the Lokpal has also been removed.But the activists refuse to admit that any drastic changes have been made and that their fight against the government is very much on.While Sibal said some points of the Lokpal Bill draft were discussed, Arvind Kejriwal accused Sibal of misleading the media. He said, "Kapil Sibal is misleading the nation. I advise him not to hold informal debriefing sessions in the interest of the country. No issues regarding the draft were discussed in today’s meeting,"Anna Hazare, on the other hand said that he was satisfied with the first meeting.The deliberations also came in the backdrop of a controversy over a CD in circulation which purportedly has conversations with senior Bhushan, a former Law Minister, and politicians Mulayam Singh Yadav and Amar Singh. Bhushan has termed the CD as "clearly fabricated".The CD has audio clippings of a phone conversation allegedly between Shanti Bhushan, Mulayam Singh Yadav and Amar Singh about influencing a judge. Amar Singh reacted to the allegation saying that the CD was fabricated. An FIR has been filed by the Bhushans questioning its authenticity.Law Minsiter Veerappa Moily, who is also a panel member, has promised that the bill will be prepared by June 30 and be presented in Parliament in the monsoon session. This meeting comes amid corruption charges against co-chairman of the Lokpal Committee Shanti Bhushan.On Friday, Congress spokesperson Digvijay Singh - targetted Bhushan for evading stamp duty worth Rs 1.33 crore - for property purchased in Allahabad.Shanti Bhushan, along with civil society members rubbished the allegations- saying that an FIR had already been filed against the alleged property scam.All members of the Lokpal Draft Panel declared their financial assets on Friday evening. Both the sides had fine tuned their strategy during separate meetings on Friday evening.Hazare on last Saturday called off his fast-unto-death agitation after government conceded his demand for a Joint Drafting Committee on the legislation.The fight doesn't end here and the draft is likely to be placed before other political parties before introduction in Parliament and with netas reluctant to give up their power, the Lokpal Bill may face the same fate as women's reservation bill. While it receives verbal support, it has yet to win the votes.