Lokpal Bill tabled in Parliament, Hazare burns copies

A Bill to establish the institution of Lokpal that will look into into charges of corruption against certain public functionaries was finally introduced in the Lok Sabha on Thursday. The BJP opposed the Bill as it had not brought the post of Prime Minister within its purview.

The Bill has created controversies resulting in a dispute between the Union government and the civil society led by Anna Hazare.

Soon after the Bill was introduced, Mr. Hazare urged people to burn copies of the government draft, while doing so himself. Terming it a weak Bill, he asked every village, district and State to come forward and burn copies of the Bill. He was talking to the media in his hometown Ralegan Siddhi in Maharashtra.

When Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs V. Narayanasamy tabled the Bill, Leader of the Opposition Sushma Swaraj objected to some constitutional provisions in it.

With the permission of Speaker Meira Kumar, under Rule 72, she said: “what is the logic in excluding the office of Prime Minister from the ambit of the Lokpal Bill, 2011, when legislations such as the Indian Penal Code, the Criminal Procedure Code and the Prevention of Corruption Act did not give immunity to the post. No one can be a holy cow. How can you put Prime Minister outside the system?”

Vajpayee’s statement

Ms. Swaraj recalled a statement of the former Prime Minister, A.B. Vajpayee. He had said: “if Prime Minister is not included in the Lokpal, then the law becomes ineffective.”

As Prime Minister Manmohan Singh watched keenly, she said even Dr. Singh had opined that he had no objection to his post being brought under the purview of the Bill. When the Prime Minister himself was willing why his allies were not accepting it, she asked. Ms. Swaraj said even Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, while heading the parliamentary standing committee on the Home Ministry in 2002, felt that the post of Prime Minister could be brought under the Lokpal.

The BJP would support the Bill tomorrow itself if it was amended by including the post of Prime Minister and introduced again. “But in this form [without the Prime Minister] we would not allow this Bill to be introduced,” she said.

Mr. Mukherjee, accepting that he made such a suggestion on February 16, 2002, wanted to know what prevented the then NDA regime from including the post of Prime Minister and introducing the Bill.

Mr. Narayanasamy said that though Dr. Singh wished for inclusion of his post in the Lokpal, the decision of the Cabinet was ultimate and the objections of Ms. Swaraj could not be sustained. If at all the Opposition wanted to raise their points, they could do so when the Bill was considered by the standing committee.

When Sharad Yadav (Janata Dal-United) wanted to say something on the Bill, he was disallowed by the Chair.

The post of Prime Minister during his/her term, the higher judiciary and the conduct of MPs inside Parliament will not come under the ambit of the legislation. It does not provide for constitution of Lokayuktas in States.

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