New Delhi: Five Union ministers and social activist Anna Hazare's representatives will meet today to take forward the process to draft an effective legislation to combat corruption.
Civil society members held rallies in several cities yesterday in support of a strong anti-corruption law as the Union ministers went through minute details of various versions of the draft Jan Lokpal Bill prepared by Hazare's team.
Top officials of the Law Ministry, who have gone through the Jan Lokpal Bill, made a presentation on salient features of the legislation before the Union ministers at a meeting yesterday.
The meeting was called by Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, the Chairman of the Joint Drafting Committee (JDC).
At the first meeting of the JDC on April 16, both the sides had agreed to go through various drafts of the Lokpal Bill submitted by other organisations.
Mukherjee discussed the finer details of the Jan Lokpal Bill with his ministerial colleagues which, among other things, envisages a provision empowering the office of the Lokpal to intercept telephone conversations.
The second meeting comes in the backdrop of differences on the inclusion of judiciary in the anti-graft legislation.
At a round-table organised recently, two former Chief Justices of India - J S Verma and M N Venkatachalaiah - had opposed inclusion of judges of the Supreme Court and High Courts in the proposed legislation.
The latest version has a new clause, Clause 13-C, which gives wide powers to "an appropriate bench of the Lokpal to approve interception and monitoring of messages or data or voice transmitted through telephones, internet or any other medium as covered under the India Telegraph Act, read with Information and Technology Act 2000."
The power to intercept telephonic conversations is, at present, vested with the Home Ministry.
Another new provision in the draft is for setting up a separate "prosecution wing" for the office of Lokpal which is already envisaged to have powers to investigate.
The draft was circulated to government representatives during the Committee's first meeting on April 16.
Mukherjee, HRD Minister Kapil Sibal, Law Minister Veerappa Moily, Home Minister P Chidambaram and Water Resources Minister Salman Khurshid represent the government on the JDC.
The civil society members are Hazare, former Law Minister Shanti Bhushan, senior lawyer Prashant Bhushan, Karnataka Lokayukta Santosh Hegde and RTI activist Arvind Kejriwal.
Hazare's supporters held a rally in the national capital and demanded quick passage of Jan Lokpal Bill.
Similar rallies were also held in more than 20 cities including Mumbai, Pune, Lucknow, Kanpur, Indore, Silchar, Jaipur, Moradabad, Raipur, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Chennai, Chandigarh, Hojai (Assam), Kanyakumari, Thiruvananthapuram and Vishakapatnam.
"People are expecting a lot out of the joint committee and we are all conscious of the fact what they are expecting.
"I don't see any reason, I don't doubt at all that we as drafting committee or they as government are in any way going to be marking time," former IPS officer Kiran Bedi said.