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Lokpal bill passes Rajya Sabha test

Wednesday, 18 December 2013 - 7:00am IST | Place: New Delhi | Agency: DNA
With BJP's support, upper House clears the anti-corruption legislation with voice after a six-hour debate.

The scene in Rajya Sabha was totally different from the complete confusion and abrupt end on December 29, 2011. The amended Lokpal Bill was passed through voice vote and at around 6 pm after a six-hour debate on Tuesday.

This was preceded by a meeting between prime minister Manmohan Singh and Samajwadi Party (SP) leader Mulayam Singh Yadav and SP leader in Rajya Sabha Ramgopal Yadav. Before the debate commenced, Ram Gopal Yadav stated his party’s opposition to Lokpal and along with his colleagues staged a walkout.

Every member who spoke was a personification of sweet reasonableness. Law minister Kapil Sibal, who was standing in for minister for state for personnel, training and grievances V Narayanasamy who could not attend because his wife was critically ill, said that it was an opportunity to either make history or repeat history. At the end of the day, Rajya Sabha made history by passing the bill to set up the Lokpal and requiring all the states to set up Lokayukta through legislation within a year of the bill becoming an Act. Leader of opposition and senior BJP leader Arun Jaitley expressed reservation about including private organisations including temples, mosques and gurdwaras within the Lokpal ambit. Sibal immediately clarified that the government was not pressing the issue. The other reservation Jaitley had was with regard to the clause that says that at least 50% of the members of the Lokpal should be chosen from the Scheduled Castes (SCs), Scheduled Tribes (STs), Other Backward Classes (OBCs), minorities and women.

Jaitley stated his party’s objection for including minorities. He said it would not hold water in the courts because Constitution does not allow reservations for minorities. Sibal said this was not ‘reservation’ but ‘ representation’. The BJP did not press the issue at the time of voting. Bahujan Samajwadi Party (BSP) member Satish Chandra Mishra supported reservations for minorities.

CPI-M leader Sitaram Yechury while wholeheartedly supporting the bill said it is the tacit understanding between the Big Two – the Congress and the BJP – which is facilitating the passage of the bill. He, however, pointed out that the Lokpal bill by failing to bring in the private sector into the ambit has failed to address the supply side of corruption. All India Anna-DMK’s Maithreyan stated his party’s position that the prime minister and the chief ministers should not be brought under the Lokpal as that this would undermine the moral authority of the prime minister.

The opposition members were all praise for the House Select Committee chairman Satyavrat Chaturvedi for conducting the committee’s deliberations fairly, allowing all viewpoints to be expressed and the amendments to the bill were unanimous.

BJP’s Ravi Shankar Prasad said the BJP and other opposition parties had no hesitation praising Chaturvedi though he was from Congress, while another Congress member who headed the Joint Parliamentary Committee, PC Chacko, was partisan, and said he wished Chaturvedi was head of the JPC as well.

The Lokpal Bill as amended by Rajya Sabha will now go back to Lok Sabha, where it needs to be passed again. The government is confident that it will manage the passage in the Lower House as well.

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