M A I N   N E W S

Lokpal Bill put off again, goes to select panel
Ajay Banerjee/TNS

New Delhi, May 21
Faced with a deadlock over several clauses of the controversy-ridden Lokpal and Lokayuktas Bill, the Rajya Sabha today deferred passing it on the penultimate day of the Budget session and instead referred it to a select committee of MPs. The 15-member panel has been asked to present its report in the monsoon session that is three months away.

The Bill was deferred amid high drama that sent out clear political signals that consensus was elusive. Parties wanted to clarify matters before setting up of the powerful anti-graft ombudsman that has been hanging fire for the last 42 years.

A debate on the Bill had remained inconclusive when the last session of the House ended on December 29, 2011, much to the chagrin of civil society members who have been demanding accountability from the government.

Today, Minister of State for Personnel V Narayanasamy moved it for consideration and passage. This led to hour-long angry outbursts in which Constitutional provisions were cited by the Opposition and the Treasury benches.

This forced the minister to propose that the Bill be sent to a select committee that is different from a Parliamentary Standing Committee. It was immediately passed by a voice vote. The Minister said the 15-member committee would have to submit its report by the first day of the last week of the monsoon session.

Today’s development comes after an all-party meting could not arrive at a consensus on Lokayuktas, the state anti-graft bodies, the Lokpal having an investigation wing of its own and on removal of the Lokpal. In the case of Lokayuktas, it was decided not to make it mandatory for states but suggest a model law under Article 252 of the Constitution. For this, at least two states assemblies will have to send in a resolution.

In case of the investigation wing, the major difference is of allowing the Lokpal to probe cases on its own. So far, this power remains with the CBI. There is no consensus on handing over investigations to the Lokpal or putting the CBI under the control of the Lokpal.

Earlier in the House, just as the minister first proposed passing of the Bill, Samajwadi Party member Naresh Agrawal moved a resolution to send the Bill to a select committee, causing a furore.

The BJP, BSP and Left parties protested, saying only the minister concerned could move such a motion and accused the ruling coalition of “using the shoulders of a friendly Opposition” party. Agrawal even read out the names of the proposed select committee members. This had Rajiv Pratap Rudy of the BJP on his feet as he wanted to know in what capacity Agrawal had named the members.

Even as members squabbled over the nitty-gritty, Sitaram Yechury of the CPM said, “None of us have a problem with sending the Bill to the select committee, but please use the correct procedure.”

BJP’s Arun Jaitely reminded the house that “the credibility of the Parliamentary system was at stake”. He blamed the government for being ill-prepared and said the all-party meetings had given a clear indication. “I urge the Prime Minister and the government to be upfront and forthright and say whether they want a Lokpal or not," Jaitley said.

Moving the Bill, Naryanasamy said differences on it had been narrowed down after consultations with various parties. He said the government proposed to bring the lower bureaucracy under the purview of the Lokpal, which will have an investigation and prosecution wing.

Besides, the CVC would monitor investigations by the CBI referred to it by the Lokpal. There would also be provisions for attachment of properties and a timeframe for investigation.

SP initiative

  • The motion for referring the Bill to the select committee was moved initially by Samajwadi Party member Naresh Agrawal
  • BJP MPs stood up shouting slogans and objecting to Agrawal’s proposal, arguing that only the minister concerned could move such a motion
  • Yechury said his party had no objection with the Bill being sent to the panel, but wanted rules to be followed





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