Uncertainty looms over Lokpal Bill in Rajya Sabha

It appears there is another twist in the Lokpal tale. The government has now decided to move and debate the Lokpal and Lokayukta Bill, 2011 in Rajya Sabha only on Thursday.

Zeenews Bureau

New Delhi: It appears there is another twist in the Lokpal tale. The government has now decided to move and debate the Lokpal and Lokayukta Bill, 2011 in Rajya Sabha only on Thursday.

Lok Sabha had passed the Lokpal Bill last night with voice vote.

“Rajya Sabha will take up Lokpal Bill for discussion tomorrow,” said MoS Parliamentary Affairs Rajiv Shukla.

There was earlier speculation that the Lokpal Bill would be tabled in Rajya Sabha today after President Pratibha Patil gave her approval for the same.
The Lokpal Bill would now be tabled in the Upper House on Thursday, following which a debate on the same would be held which will conclude with a vote.

According to a Rashtrapati Bhavan spokesperson, the President gave her approval for tabling the Lokpal Bill from Hyderabad where she is on a 10-day visit.

The President`s approval was required for the measure since the Lok Sabha made some amendments to The Lokpal and Lokayukta Bill, 2011 before its passage.

However, uncertainty prevailed over the passage of Lokpal Bill in the Rajya Sabha with Trinamool Congress tonight deciding to make a key amendment to the legislation adopted by Lok Sabha further complicating the numbers game in the House.

Trinamool Congress, which has 6 members in the 243-member Upper House where the Congress and its allies do not have majority, wants removal of the provisions relating to the setting up of Lokayuktas in the state which is contained in the Bill passed by Lok Sabha yesterday. If the Government accepts the amendments, the Bill will have to be referred to the Lok Sabha again or a joint session of Parliament has to be convened for its clearance.

UPA troubleshooter and Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee held talks with leaders of ally Trinamool Congress which has strong reservations over provisions in the bill that it considers encroached on the states’ rights on appointment of the Lokayukta.

Trinamool Congress leaders Mukul Roy and Sudeep Bandopadhayay met Mukherjee after which Roy said the question of creating trouble for the government does not arise. With Mukherjee reportedly ruling out any further amendments, Trinamool Congress has tabled amendments for removal of provisions relating to Lokayuktas that it feels are encroaching on the powers of states.

In a House with an effective strength of 243, the Congress and other allies in the UPA account for 94 and can count on the support of eight nominated members and independents and members of small parties accounting for around 10 MPs.

The Constitution Amendment Bill, an idea of Rahul Gandhi to give Constitutional status to Lokpal and Lokayukta, was also favoured by the Standing Committee which considered the

The Treasury Benches, including Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Leader of the House Pranab Mukherjee and UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi, looked glum when the Leader of Opposition Sushma Swaraj raised the issue that the voting on the clauses of bill did not have the required special majority.

A Constitution Amendment Bill to be passed should have more than 50 per cent of the members of the House present and of them, two-third support is mandatory.

Concerned about this, MoS in PMO, V Narayanasamy said this morning, “The Congress party is concerned about the fate of the Lokpal Bill and is determined to get the same passed in the Upper House.”
The minister expressed concerns about the possible absence of its own MPs and those from major allies including NCP, DMK, BSP, SP and RJD during the voting in Rajya Sabha - the absence of some MPs resulted in the defeat of the Constitution Amendment Bill in Lok Sabha yesterday.

The party has decided to take action against its own members, who staged a walkout or remained absent during the voting on the Constitution Amendment Bill yesterday, the minister stated.

The government’s move to introduce the Lokpal Bill in Rajya Sabha comes amid concerns that it lacks the required numbers to get the legislation passed in the Upper House.

If the members of its alliance partners including the SP, RJD and BSP walk out of the House during voting as they did in Lok Sabha last night, the government would surely be in trouble.

In the 245-member House, the Congress and its allies NCP, DMK, Trinamool Congress, LJP and RLD together have 93 members. Parties supporting the UPA from outside - BSP (18), SP (5) and RJD (4) -- account for 27 crucial votes.

These three parties had walked out of Lok Sabha before voting on the Lokpal Bill last night but their absence did not matter much because the bill required only a simple majority and it was passed by a voice vote.

However, the absence of 42 MPs from these three parties in the Lok Sabha spelt disaster for the government in the Constitutional Amendment Bill, which required a special majority for passage.

Probably, this has triggered concerns in the Congress government, which is making every attempt to ensure that the Lokpal Bill sails through choppy seas in Rajya Sabha.

Also yesterday, Lok Sabha passed the bill to protect whistleblowers, an anti-corruption framework that the UPA government has been trying to put in place.

Lok Sabha yesterday voted on the two bills at around 10 pm after a 10-hour debate that had 38 speakers and saw heated exchanges, but Prime Minister Manmohan Singh`s intervention at 4.40 pm indicated the government`s resolve to press ahead despite stiff opposition, primarily on the question of constitution of Lokayuktas in the states.

"Legal sophistry cannot be used to argue that state legislatures must not adopt the model law proposed, or delay its enforcement. Let us endorse the bill as proposed," the PM said.

The opposition proposed nearly 90 amendments in all and the voting process for the three bills went on for nearly two hours, ending close to midnight.

Alleging that the bill "attacks the federal structure of the state", Leader of Opposition Sushma Swaraj demanded that the bill be referred back to the Parliamentary Standing Committee for re-consideration.

Most opposition members wanted the CBI to be freed of government control, but opinion was divided on whether the agency should be brought under the Lokpal.

Members wanted deletion of Section 24, which requires the Lokpal to send reports on charge-sheeted MPs to the presiding officers of the two houses of Parliament, asking them to take action against the member.

With PTI Inputs

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