Parliament set to debate Lokpal Bill today
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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 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.


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

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