After almost two years, the government on Friday brought the Lokpal Bill back to the Rajya Sabha in an amended form, amid vociferous disruptions by the Samajwadi Party, a key ally of the ruling United Progressive Alliance.
Outside Parliament, the party threatened to support a no-confidence motion against the government over Telangana if it went ahead with this “draconian” anti-graft legislation.
The Lokpal Bill provides for the establishment of an independent Lokpal to investigate allegations of corruption against public functionaries. Following protests by parties, the government agreed to de-link the setting up of Lokayuktas in the States through a central law and leave it to the States.
A crucial amendment the government proposes is that a public servant will get an opportunity to present his view before prosecution is ordered against him. The other key provision will prevent the transfer of an officer handling a probe without the Lokpal’s permission.
The Bill was tabled by Minister for Personnel and Training V. Narayanasamy after Chairman Hamid Ansari announced that he was setting aside the post-lunch private members business for a six-hour discussion on the Bill, which has been returned by the House Select Committee with recommendations. The government has accepted a majority of the recommendations and will move them as amendments.
When the House met at noon, Mr. Narayanasamy sought the members’ cooperation in the passage of the Bill, but much of what he said was lost in the din. There was a feeble attempt by a SP member to move towards the Minister but he was waved away by Congress members. Even as BJP and Trinamool Congress members urged the Chair to bring order, the presiding officer adjourned the House. Similar scenes were witnessed till 3.30 p.m., when the House was adjourned for the day.“Protest will continue”
SP members wanted the government to respond to their notice for a discussion on price rise; but outside the House, party leader Ramgopal Yadav said the party was opposed to the Bill “in the present form” and would continue to protest “till the end.”
Well placed sources told The Hindu that the government was likely to speak to the SP at the weekend to ensure a smooth passage of the Lokpal Bill, which has been brought in after the Aam Aadmi Party’s stellar performance in the Delhi Assembly elections on the plank of Lokpal, and the ongoing fast of social activist Anna Hazare in Ralegan Siddhi.
A repeat of what happened in the Rajya Sabha in December 2011, when voting on the Bill was scuttled by unruly scenes, would not be allowed, the sources said. If it came to that, action might be taken against those who disrupted proceedings.
The Bill will be taken up for discussion and passage on Monday, after which it will be sent back to the Lok Sabha.
A key recommendation of the Select Committee is for establishing a directorate of prosecution, under the CBI, which will be headed by a director. The CBI Director will be appointed by a collegium of the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition and the Chief Justice of India. The prosecution director will be appointed on the recommendation of the Central Vigilance Commission and will have tenure of two years. The power of superintendence over the CBI in Lokpal cases will vest with the Lokpal.
Several parties wanted the CBI to have full financial autonomy, but it was not accepted by the government.
The Bill was passed in the Lok Sabha in December 2011 and referred to the Select Committee in May 2012.