Prime Minister included in its ambit with conditions; Anna Hazare thanks government

In a show of solidarity, marred only by Samajwadi Party walk-out, the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday passed by voice vote the historic Lokpal Bill that provides for setting up an independent ombudsman to investigate charges of corruption against public functionaries. Among others the Prime Minister is included in the Bill with some conditions.

“It is the collective will of the House that has delivered,’’ said Law and Justice Minister Kapil Sibal. He, however, admitted that the legislation, which has been hanging fire for the last four decades, came about “ in response to surge in opinion in society.’’

“By itself laws can help deal with the corrupt, but not with the impetus to be corrupt. For that the economic disparity between the poor and the rich has to go.’’

Leader of the Opposition Arun Jaitley, while supporting the Bill, said he was happy that the government had accepted all the changes in “this changed environment”. Some members said the political will shown by the government was related to the drubbing the Congress party got in the recent Assembly elections.

The government moved a few amendments, dropped some, agreed to a BJP “ proviso’’ and did not accept an amendment pressed by the CPI(M). After the house said “ aye’’ to the Bill, fasting social activist Anna Hazare thanked the government.

The major official amendments on which the House gave its nod relate to giving a hearing to the officer charged with corruption before the Lokpal orders an investigation, during an enquiry and before the sanction of prosecution. On the insistence of Leader of Opposition Arun Jaitlety, however, the government agreed to add a “ proviso’’ that this shall not be application if Lokpal orders raids and searches to maintain an element of surprise.

“In the interest of evolving consensus’’, the government did not persist with its amendment to include under Lokpal donations received by institutions of trusts, religious bodies and so on. It also did not press its amendment allowing government to transfer a CBI official investigation a Lokpal case without the approval of Lokpal. Now approval of Lokpal shall be required before government transfers an official on a Lokpal case. The CPI(M) and the CPI’s amendments to include projects covered under public-private partnership and private companies and corporate houses did not get carried. Referring to the “ sense of the House’’ resolution passed by Parliament in August, 2011, Mr. Sibal said the Lokpal Bill provides for states to set up Lokayuktas within a year of the passing the central law while the Citizens Charters Bill, 2012, is pending in Lok Sabha for approval. The government intends to amend the Prevention of Corruption Act to deal with “ supply side corruption’’.

Before leading his party’s walk-out SP leader Ramgopal Yadav said the Bill had provisions that would not allow officers to take decisions and would bring the country to a standstill. The amended Bill will now be taken up in the Lok Sabha.

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