After a wait of 46 years and eight unsuccessful attempts later, the Lokpal, an ombudsman to probe and prosecute even the highest government authorities, has became a reality. The Lokpal will have in its purview even the office of the prime minister.
The Lokpal and Lokayukta Bill, 2013, was passed by voice vote amid din created by members from Seemandhra region who were protesting against division of Andhra Pradesh to create Telangana state. The Rajya Sabha had cleared the bill on Tuesday. The legislation now awaits the assent of President Pranab Mukherjee to become part of statute.
The Lokpal Bill, involving appointment of the eight-member Lokpal at the Centre, was hanging fire since 2011. The Bill was already passed by the Lok Sabha in December 2011 but it came to parliament again as it underwent a series of amendments.
The Bill got support from all parties except Samajwadi Party and Shiv Sena, whose members staged a walkout.
The Bill was passed earlier in December 2011 by the Lok Sabha, but it was returned to the House to approve the amendments incorporated in the Rajya Sabha on a select committee’s recommendations. The major amendment on which the government and the main opposition BJP finally agreed relates to opportunity of hearing and explanation given to the public servant to determine the prima facie case, but without interfering with search and seizures in the case of corruption.
Though four hours were allotted for debate in the Lok Sabha, the Bill was passed in less than an hour even while the anti-Telangana MPs from Andhra Pradesh kept up the ruckus from the well of the House. Speaker Meira Kumar allowed members raise the issue of the arrest of India’s deputy consular general Devyani Khobargade in the United States and then suddenly adjourned the House sine-die.
The sudden shutdown of the session came as a surprise as only a while ago Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi had called for extending the session to pass six more Bills that were “part of the comprehensive anti-corruption framework” of the UPA government.
In his rare speech, Rahul Gandhi said Lokpal Bill alone is not enough to fight corruption and pleaded for a comprehensive anti-corruption code. “The UPA government has prepared anti-corruption framework. Eight new central laws have been brought...We should complete the unfinished work of fighting corruption...Six anti-corruption bills are pending. If necessary, can we not extend this session of Parliament,” Gandhi said as the debate began on the key bill to create the anti-graft Lokpal,” he said.
Leader of Opposition Sushma Swaraj supported the Bill even while lampooning the ruling Congress for trying to take credit or it. “The people of this country and the old man (Anna Hazare) who has undertaken fast several times deserve the credit,” she said.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Wednesday described the passage of the Lokpal bill in parliament as a “historic and landmark step.”
With inputs from agencies