Parliament set to debate Lokpal Bill today

Last Updated: Tuesday, December 27, 2011 - 10:48

New Delhi/Mumbai: The Lok Sabha is all set to debate on Tuesday the Lokpal Bill with the Government working
on strategies to defeat the opposition amendments as Anna Hazare braced himself for his three-day fast in Mumbai.

Ahead of the debate, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal appealed to parties not to move amendments but to cooperate in the passage of the Bill.

Bansal said the legislation to accord Constitutional status to the ombudsman, which requires a special majority for passage, would be put to vote only if it has the required support.

Allaying main opposition BJP’s concerns regarding the CBI, he said, “There is no government intervention in its day-to-day working. It functions in its own way. Even the Interpol has described it as a world class investigating agency. The government is aware of the concerns raised by opposition parties and has come out with an effective legislation.”

Bansal said, “The government will seek simultaneous discussion on the Lokpal and Lokayukta Bill, 2011, and the Constitution (Amendment) Bill to give the anti-corruption ombudsman a constitutional status.”

Seeking cross-party support, Bansal said law-making was a dynamic process and changes can be made in the legislation subsequently.

The Right and Left on Monday gave notice of tabling amendments seeking inclusion of CBI in and a separate
investigative wing for the Lokpal respectively with BJP dead
set on opposing the provision of minority reservation in the
Lokpal and Lokayukta Bill, 2011.

74-year-old Hazare, just recovering from a bout of fever, reached Mumbai yesterday from his Ralegan Siddhi
village, a six-hour drive, to mount a fresh campaign against the Government demanding a strong Lokpal Bill.

While observers noted that the passage of the Bill may not be a problem in the Lok Sabha where the ruling coalition commands a majority, its fate is uncertain in the Upper House
where BJP`s support would be necessary for its approval.

Protectively, the Congress has issued a three-line whip to its members to be present in the House tomorrow but
Bansal said it is not a sign of nervousness but a legitimate Parliamentary excercise. He said it is a "strong" Bill and a "fine piece of
legislation".
The BJP has made it clear that it will not relent on the changes being sought by it in the Lokpal Bill and it was up to the Government to create a broad consensus by making amendments whereever it is necessary.

The Lokpal and Lokayukta Bill, 2011, which also seeks to establish ombudsmen in the states besides the Centre, is listed for discussion for eight hours along with the Constitutional amendment bill. The Whistleblowers Bill will
also be taken up by the House.

The BJP has registered strong opposition to the
provision for quota for minorities in the Lokpal, an issue
which a senior minister said was "non-negotiable".

Cranking up pressure, the CPI-M said it will move
concrete amendments that includes creation of a separate
investigation wing to further strengthen the measure which is
"ineffective" in its present form.

"We are moving some concrete amendments which we think
will further strengthen the Lokpal because the bill, as it
conceives of the Lokpal right now, ... we are not very happy
in the sense that it is not an effective Lokpal," CPI-M leader
Sitaram Yechury told reporters.

The Left parties insist that they want to amend the
present Bill on various counts, especially to provide for a
separate investigating wing to probe corruption or inclusion
of CBI`s anti-corruption wing under the ombudsman`s ambit.
The CPI(M) also wants inclusion of corporate crime in
the jurisdiction of Lokpal, particularly those cases which
cause a loss to the public exchequer and has the involvement
of public servants.

Unhappy over content of the new Lokpal Bill, BJP said it
would move amendments on issues like inclusion of CBI and
against reservation for minorities.

Party sources said Leader of the Opposition in Rajya
Sabha and eminent lawyer Arun Jaitley has been assigned the
task of preparing the amendments.

BJP is likely to move six amendments to the new Lokpal
Bill. The party is opposed to giving reservation to minorities
in the nine-member Lokpal as well as the clause which states
"not less than 50 per cent" reservation.

Government also remained unfazed saying Hazare`s fast
at a time when Parliament takes up the Bill will be construed
as an "obstructionist" tactics.

Bansal asserted that the Lokpal bill that had been
introduced is a product of wide- ranging consultations with
civil society and political parties and called it a "fine
piece of legislation" to provide for a strong Lokpal.

Before he set out for Mumbai, Hazare said the repeated
volte-face by the government over the Lokpal bill had forced
him to fast again.

"They formed a joint committee and then in the joint
committee they did a U-turn. They formed a standing committee
but the result was again a U-turn," he said in Ralegan Siddhi.

Team Anna member Prashant Bhushan said in New Delhi that
they could call off their `jail bharo` agitation if government
agrees to the four "non-negotiable" points raised by them in
an open letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and MPs.

"In the open letter to the Prime Minister and MPs, Team
Anna has asked for four changes, which are non-negotiable...
for other changes we can continue our fight later," he said.

The demands were Lokpal and Lokayuktas should have power
to suo motu initiate their own investigations, the obmudsman
should be able to carry out independent probe, selection of
Lokpal should be through consensus of selection panel and
bringing lower bureaucracy under direct control of Lokpal.

"Anna will arrive in Delhi on December 30 for dharna
outside a MP`s house...it could be Sonia Gandhi or Rahul
Gandhi`s residence...It will depend on what transpires in
Parliament. If there are indications that Parliament or the
government is ready for amendments, then there will be no need
for it (dharna)," Bhushan said.

Hazare said, "for 25 years we have been fighting
corruption. Congress people feel that this movement is against
them. Tell us, how many times in 25 years have we led
movements against you?"
"After being asked not once but several times they
(government) still don`t create an anti-corruption law. Out of
compulsion this movement has to be launched," he added.

PTI



First Published: Monday, December 26, 2011 - 13:36

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