The Lokpal and Lokayuktas Bill, 2011, which has been pending in the House for the last two years, was approved by voice vote after a five-hour debate. Samajwadi Party, which was strongly opposed to such a measure, boycotted the House proceedings after staging a walkout as soon as the debate began on Dec 17 morning. The proposed law, aimed at dealing with the menace of corruption, will bring under its purview the Prime Minister with certain safeguards and other public servants.
“The Center can’t give directions to the states,” he said, allaying apprehensions that the Union government was dictating. Sibal, who had initiated discussion on the issue, said the law alone would not eliminate corruption but it could help deal with those who are corrupt. On the issue of bringing the Prime Minister under the purview of the new law, he said the overall consensus was in this favor although there were some “discordant individual views” disfavouring it. Government accepted all but three recommendations of the Select Committee. The accepted recommendations included not transferring a CBI official investigating a case referred by the Lokpal. The selection process of the Lokpal has also been changed.
It now provides for appointment of the Lokpal by a committee comprising the Prime Minister,Speaker of Lower House, Leader in Opposition in Lower House and Chief Justice of India, besides an eminent jurist appointed by the President on their recommendation. Among the recommendations not accepted by the government was an accused public servant should not be given any chance to present his or her view before initiation of investigation. The government said the accused official should be given a chance to be heard before initiation of formal investigation but the “suspense” element would be maintained in case of search and seizure. The passage of the Bill had become a mere formality as almost all parties, except SP, were in support. The urgency of pushing the Bill is seen in the context of the drubbing Congress faced in the just-held Delhi assembly polls at the hands of Aam Aadmi Party whose main plank was the enactment of Lokpal. Lawmakers cannot be part of the Lokpal. Sibal said it was done to avoid a conflict of interest. The government also decided to exempt only such bodies or authorities established, constituted or appointed by or under any Central or State or Provincial Act providing for administration of public religious or charitable trusts or endowments or societies for religious or charitable purposes registered under the Societies Registration Act. (PTI)