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    Santosh Hegde to continue in Lokpal Committee

    New Delhi: Justice Santosh Hegde's threat to quit the Lokpal drafting committee over the alleged smear campaign against civil society activists blew over on Saturday with their representatives deciding that he will continue in the panel.

    A meeting of the activists led by Anna Hazare also decided to write to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Chief Justice of India S H Kapadia offering themselves to any high-level inquiry into any allegations against them.

    "The Committee recognised that the prime national duty of India Against Corruption has been to provide the country an independent and accountable Lokpal.

    "The Committee resolved that Hegde will continue as a member. The Committee has also decided to write to the Prime Minister and CJI to conduct any high-level inquiry into any allegations against any of our members," Kiran Bedi, one of
    the leading activists, told reporters after the meeting.

    The meeting, attended by the 5 civil society representatives in the committee including Shanti and Prashant Bhushan, Hegde, Hazare and Arvind Kejriwal, took place against the backdrop of raging controversies over a controversial CD, allotment of prized land to the Bhushans and alleged evasion of stamp duty by the Bhushans in Allahabad.

    Hegde had on Thursday announced that he was considering quitting the Committee in view of the criticism voiced by Congress General Secretary Digvijay Singh and also the "smear campaign" against the Bhushans.

    However, this morning he indicated that he may not press ahead with the resignation in view of the statement made by chairman of the committee and Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee that the government was keen on working with the civil society representatives in the committee for drafting a strong Lokpal legislation.

    Hazare also welcomed Mukerjee's statement and expressed the hope that the Committee will expeditiously complete the task and provide the country with an independent, effective and accountable anti-corruption authority for the country.

    On Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati's demand for inclusion of a dalit representative in the drafting committee, Kejriwal said the government could replace one of the five ministers with a Dalit representative.