Govt blinks on Lokpal bill, Anna to end fast

test sharma | Updated: April 8, 2011, 9:06 PM IST

New Delhi: Veteran social activist and Gandhian Anna Hazare on Friday said that he will end his fast on Saturday after government agreed to issue a formal order to set up a joint committee for drafting an effective Lokpal Bill.

The announcement of an agreement came from both sides late in the night on the fourth day of Hazare's last-unto-death that triggered a nationwide support for his anti-corruption campaign.

"Government has accepted all our demands and I will end my fast tomorrow at 10 am. This is a victory for the entire nation," Hazare said.

Union Minister Kapil Sibal, who led the government team of negotiators, welcomed Hazare's announcement and thanked him for it.

"This is a victory for democracy," he said adding it was for the government now now to issue an appropriate order constituting the committee that will include representatives of civil society and government.

However, Hazare's emissaries Kiran Bedi and Swami Agnivesh made it clear that the protest fast will not not be ended till the government issues the order.

The denouncement came after his emissaries met ministers for a round of talks, third in two days and after some hiccups.

Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee will be the Chairman of the committee that will also include Law Minister Veerappa Moily, Telecom Minister Sibal, Home Minister P Chidambaram and Water Resources Minister Salman Khurshid as members.

Besides Hazare, those representing the civil society in the joint committee will be eminent lawyers Shanti Bhushan, Prasant Bhushan, retired Supreme Court Judge Santosh Hege and RTI activist Arvind Kejriwal. Shanti Bhushan will be the co-Chairman.

In the agreement, the government has committed itself to introducing the new Lokpal Bill in the forthcoming monsoon session of Parliament.

Moily will be the convenor of the 10-member Joint Drafting Committee that will commence its work forthwith and evolve its own procedures to prepare the proposed legislation.

"A Government Order will be immediately issued constituting the drafting committee incorporating the names of 10 members of the committee, the chairperson, the co-chair and the time frame," the agreement said.

Sibal told reporters that the drafting committee will have to work as quickly as possible so that the work is completed by June 30 and the Cabinet approval is taken before the start of the monsoon session. The session is likely to start in the first week of July.

He said the government was delighted at the fact that the government and civil society representatives have worked together. "This suggests the strength of democracy in our country that we are able to sit across the table and resolve issues which seem intractable."

Dismissing a suggestion that government had succumbed to pressure, he said government and the civil society were on the same page in the fight against corruption.

"It is a happy day for us," he said.

Earlier in the evening, Hazare said "Some shortcomings have been sighted in the government draft. So the fast will continue."

"We will let all of you know tomrorow about the decision." The statement came in what appeared to be an anti-climax after hopes were raised of an end to the fast on Friday night itself.

The day was marked by hectic consultations within the government and between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress President Sonia Gandhi. In one of the meetings, the Prime Minister told his Cabinet colleagues that the problem somehow needed to be resolved at the earliest.

(With additional information from PTI)

First Published: April 8, 2011, 9:06 PM IST

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