Lokpal Bill sails through LS

Lokpal Bill sails through LS

Government move to give it Constitutional status defeated

Lokpal Bill sails through LS

After over 10 hours of intense debate, the Lok Sabha on Tuesday passed the historic Lokpal Bill but, in a severe embarrassment to the government, the draft legislation to make the anti-corruption body a constitutional entity got defeated.

The 116th amendment to the Constitution (to enable Constitutional status to the Lokpal Bill) fell through as the government secured 250 votes, as against 180 votes which went against the bill. The government required at least 284 votes to get the Constitution amendment through.

The Constitution amendment requires the presence and voting of two-thirds of the members present and voting in favour of the amendment. Besides, at least 50 per cent of the total members should be present in the House.

The Lokpal Bill—the first bill to be carried during the voting, which itself took over two hours after the debate — was passed by a voice vote after the government agreed to consider several amendments moved by the Opposition and the UPA allies.

However, a number of amendments moved by the Opposition for inclusion of corporates, the media and the NGOs receiving donations, under Lokpal were defeated.

The House passed the Public interest Disclosure and Protection to Persons Making Disclosures Bill (otherwise called the Whistleblowers Bill).

Pressured by  the Trinamool Congress and DMK, two UPA partners, and several parties the government agreed to some of their demands which included setting up of Lokayuktas by state governments optional.

Having reached out to some of the parties on a day of hectic developments, the government agreed to delete Section 24 of the bill which allowed action to be taken against MPs and ministers even before they are tried for complaints of corruption; keep the armed forces out of Lokpal ambit; reduce the requirement of the approval of two-thirds of members instead of the three-fourth of Lokpal members for initiation of inquiry against the prime minister.

The Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party, Left parties, Biju Janata Dal and the AIADMK staged a walkout before the voting was taken up in protest against the “government going ahead with passing a weak Lokpal.”

Responding to the debate, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee said as regards setting up of the Lokayuktas, “notification for establishment of the Lokayukta will not be issued without the consent of states.”

The formation of anti-graft body in the state is made optional under Article 253 of the Constitution to which the BJP has been saying the provision did not allow as it was mandatory for the states to follow.

The government agreed to the suggestion of the BJP regarding the selection panel of the Lokpal members. Now, the panel will consist of the prime minister, leaders of Opposition in the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, Lok Sabha Speaker and Supreme Court Chief Justice or a judge of apex court. The earlier provision of a jurist nominated by the President has been deleted.

The government refused to agree to the demand of the BJP to withdraw provision relating to 50 per cent reservation as well as quota for minorities in the Lokpal panel. The House defeated several amendments, including those moved by Leader of Opposition Sushma Swaraj and CPM leader Basudev Acharia.

The government’s stand on the various demands for changes was made out by Mukherjee after a Congress core committee meeting to consider these demands.