Referred to panel towards fag end of session

The passage of the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Bill will be further delayed as the Rajya Sabha on Monday referred it to a select committee despite objections by the Bharatiya Janata Party, the Left and the Bahujan Samaj Party.

The House was plunged into arguments and counter-arguments as soon as a Samajwadi Party member proposed referring the Bill to a parliamentary committee for further perusal.

The Opposition benches rose in unison to challenge veteran SP member Naresh Agarwal's proposal that came soon after the Bill was introduced by Minister of State for Personnel V. Narayanasamy.

Members argued that the Minister should have moved the proposal for reference instead of “using the shoulder of [a] friendly opposition party.” Members across the aisle fought verbal duels, witnessed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, until the issue was settled by voice vote.

Mr. Narayanasamy then announced the setting up of a 15-member committee, which has been asked to submit its report by the first day of the last week of the monsoon session. The Opposition contended that even the names announced by the Minister were the same as those proposed by Mr. Agarwal.

The debate on setting up an anti-graft ombudsman was first taken up by the Rajya Sabha during the previous winter session but it remained inconclusive. Activists pushing for the legislation were hoping that the House would approve it towards the fag end of the current session.

Leading the attack on issues of procedures were Leader of the Opposition Arun Jaitley and the CPI(M)'s Sitaram Yechury, who were joined by Mayawati of the BSP.

Mr. Jaitley said the government actually did not want the Bill passed, which was why it was introduced with just days to go for the session to end. He questioned the need for referring the Bill for further examination when a formal all-party meeting was held on the issue and the government had also informally consulted party leaders.

Mr. Yechury challenged the motion moved by the SP member and felt he could have done so only through an amendment, while Ms. Mayawati accused the government of shirking its responsibility.

Mr. Yechury urged the government to include corporates within the purview of the Lokpal to put a check on the “supply-side of corruption” as well.

The Select Committee members proposed by the government are Shantaram Naik, Satyavrat Chaturvedi, Shadi Lal Batra (all Congress), Mr. Jaitley, Rajiv Pratap Rudy, Bhupendra Yadav (all BJP), K.N. Balagopal (CPI-M), Shivanand Tiwari (JD-U), Tiruchi Siva (DMK), Satish Mishra (BSP), D. Bandyopadhyay (Trinamool Congress), Ramgopal Yadav (SP), D.P. Tripathi (NCP), V. Maitreyan (AIADMK) and A.K. Ganguly (Nominated).

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