Rajya Sabha, Lok Sabha pass anti-corruption Lokpal Bill

Archana Venkatraman

Lokpal Bill, the anti-corruption bill initiated by activist Anna Hazare, has inched one step closer to becoming a law as Rajya Sabha, the Upper House, debated and passed it. The bill, which included amendments, has also been passed by the Lower House, Lok Sabha.

If and when the Lokpal Bill becomes a law, it will allow an independent ombudsman to prosecute corrupt politicians and civil servants in India.

Anna Hazare in a fresh round of hunger-strike as Rajya Sabha passes Lokpal Bill
Anna Hazare in a fresh round of hunger-strike as Rajya Sabha passes Lokpal Bill
Image: YouTube still

The bill was previously passed by the Lower House, but it was considered again as it had undergone considerable changes since Lok Sabha passed it in 2011 because the Parliamentary Select Committee recommended many changes.

The Lokpal and the Lokayuktas Bill, which have been pending for two years in the Upper House, was passed on Tuesday after a five-hour debate. The Lower House debated it and passed it a day later.

In a rare move, the ruling party Congress and the main Opposition party, BJP, showed unity in passing the Bill in the Upper House. However, Samajwadi Party, a Congress ally in Uttar Pradesh, staged a walkout to protest against the Bill.

“I congratulate my fellow MPs for passing Lokpal Bill. They left aside politics to pass the bill,” said Kapil Sibal, Union Minister for Communications & Information Technology.

“We have risen above political viewpoints and listened to the expectations of the people from the Members of Parliament,” he added.

The landmark move comes as Hazare enters eighth day of his fresh round of hunger strike. The Bill was demanded by Hazare in 2011 amid severe corruption allegations against politicians and civil servants in India. At that time, the anti-corruption campaigner went on a 12-day hunger strike for the Bill to be discussed by the Parliament.

The amendments suggested by the Parliamentary Select Committee included delinking of the mandatory creation of Lokayuktas by the State government and a clause that the CBI officer investigating a corruption case must not be transferred. Both the recommendations have been accepted.

One recommendation not accepted is that any accused politician or civil servant must not be given a chance to present his views before the investigation begins. The government is of the opinion that any accused party must be given a chance to voice their views before the investigation.

While the landmark Lokpal Bill will not eradicate corruption in India, it will give the country a direction in dealing efficiently with corrupt officials, ministers felt.

But Arvind Kejriwal, the leader of Aam Aadmi Party and a Hazare aide argued the Lokpal Bill, in its current form, is “very weak and inefficient”.

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