RS clears Lokpal bill amid walkout by SP, over to LS

Tags: News

Hazare welcomes passage of bill, will end fast after LS nod

The anti-graft movement launched by Anna Hazare two years ago, which found wide resonance among the people, and the recent drubbing in the assembly elections in four states forced the ruling UPA to go on the back foot and push the historic Lokpal bill in the Rajya Sabha on Tuesday. The move to create Lokpal had been hanging fire for 46 years.

The amended bill passed by the Upper House brings the prime minister under its ambit, a provision hitherto opposed by the scam-scarred UPA government.

The bill also ensures independence of the Lokpal, CBI and directors of prosecution and investigation in corruption cases.

As an amended bill has been passed in the Rajya Sabha incorporating the recommendations of the select committee, it will now have to go to the Lok Sabha for passage with these changes on Wednesday or Thursday.

The bill was passed by voice vote in the Rajya Sabha only after the BJP expressed its willingness to clear the legislation ‘even without a debate’. The Samajwadi Party members, led by Ramgopal Yadav, staged a noisy walkout opposing the legislation. With all other parties supporting the bill, it had a smooth passage after a five-hour discussion.

Hazare, on an indefinite fast in Ralegan Siddhi in Maharashtra, welcomed the passage of the bill in the Rajya Sabha. He said he would call off his fast after its passage in the Lok Sabha.

Both law minister Kapil Sibal, who piloted the bill in the Upper House in the absence of V Narayanaswamy, minister of state in the prime minister’s office, and senior BJP leader and leader of opposition in the House, Arun Jaitley, stressed the need to have Lokayuktas in all states. “The opposition is happy that the 40-year-old debate over the bill is coming to an end,” Jaitley said.

PM Manmohan Singh called it a landmark bill. Both Sibal and parliamentary affairs minister Kamal Nath said “it was a historic day.” CPM leader Sitaram Yechury wanted NGOs, particularly charitable trusts and companies involved in public-private partnership, brought under ambit of the Lokpal.

“The bill proposes to establish autonomous and independent institutions called the Lokpal at the central level and the Lokayukta at the state level. They will have powers of superintendence and direction for holding a preliminary inquiry causing an investigation to be made and prosecution of offences in respect of complaints under any law for the prevention of corruption,” the statement of objects and reasons of the bill said.

“Sometimes we have to rise above political lines. Never has a bill garnered such public interest. We must listen to the voices outside the House. I hope that the bill creates history,” Sibal said.

“We hope that every state government will frame their own Lokayuktas on the model of what we pass today. It depends on the states to form their own Lokayuktas within a year or else the purpose will not be achieved,” Sibal said. He admitted that the law alone was not enough to end corruption. “Law will be a deterrent, but it cannot curb the impetus of a human being to be corrupt. It is the collective will of the House which has delivered and I congratulate all of them,” he said.

In an attempt to stand up for his battered party in the assembly polls, Sibal said, “There were a couple of discordant notes like sharmnak (shameful) defeat. No defeat is sharmnak. It is how you look at it.”

Before walking out, SP’s Ramgopal Yadav said there were too many problems with the Lokpal bill and hoped the Rajya Sabha wouldn’t pass it. “We will not participate in the debate on the Lokpal and condemn it,” he said.

Jaitley said he was against the provision for taking a person’s view before he was investigated; there should be an element of surprise in search and seizure operations. He said the government realised which way the wind was blowing on corruption, and hence the bill. “Only those who are doing wrong will fear taking decisions,” he said.

Yechury said the bill did not tackle the fact that corruption money came from the private sector.

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