RS approves Lokpal Bill

RS approves Lokpal Bill

The Rajya Sabha on Tuesday passed the Lokpal Bill following a day-long debate and after delaying it by almost two years.

In a rare show of consensus, all political parties barring the Samajwadi Party and the Shiv Sena supported the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Bill, 2011, along with a set of amendments, recommended by a Parliamentary Select Committee that scrutinised the first version of the bill, debated in the House two years ago.

Floor managers of the ruling coalition convinced Samajwadi Party leaders to stage a walkout after registering their protest. As the government agreed to incorporate a key amendment proposed by the BJP and lone dissenter SP was absent in the House, passage of the long-awaited legislation through a voice vote was smooth.

The amendment suggested by the BJP would allow the Central Bureau of Investigation or police to search an officer accused of corruption without any notice. Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley said there would not be any prior intimation to public servant before any investigation where search and seizures are to be conducted.

Accepting the suggestion, Union Law Minister Kapil Sibal said it would be added to the legislation. Notwithstanding objections from some of the elders, Sibal also made it clear that the prime minister would also come under the purview of Lokpal's investigation authority and members of the legislature could not be a member of the Lokpal because of conflict of interest.

Soon after the bill was passed, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh who was sitting in his designated seat, walked up to the Law Minister and congratulated him. The bill is scheduled to come in the Lok Sabha on Wednesday.

Half a century ago, the Administrative Reforms Commission (ARC), in a 1966 report recommended setting up  an institution of Lokpal at the Centre to probe corruption cases.

In order to implement the ARC recommendation, the Centre introduced eight bills on Lokpal in the Lok Sabha in 1968, 1971, 1977, 1985, 1989, 1996, 1998 and 2001. but all these bills had lapsed due to the dissolution of the respective Lok Sabha except in the case of 1985 bill which was withdrawn after its introduction.

But the demand for a Lokpal gathered momentum following the agitation by Gandhian activist Anna Hazare and his then associate Arvind Kejriwal, who spearheaded a nationwide anti-corruption movement, compelling the United Progressive Alliance government to bring in Parliament once again.

“Initially, there may be some difficulty (in implementing the law), but it will contribute in improving the political process,” Jaitley said on Tuesday opening the debate. The leader of the opposition and his party colleague Ravi Shankar Prasad also demanded passage of Citizens’ Charter Bill and Whistle Blower Protection Bill which are pending with Parliament.

Sibal said both bills are with Parliament at the moment. In addition, an amendment to the Prevention of Corruption Act, dealing with the bribe givers is also pending in the Lok Sabha.

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