Indian MPs debate anti-graft bill

Passage of Ombudsman bill almost certain in parliament’s upper house with all political parties barring one backing it.

Anna Hazare has been on fast since December 10, demanding passage of the bill
Anna Hazare has been on fast since December 10, demanding passage of the bill

As India’s anti-corruption icon Anna Hazare’s indefinite fast entered the eighth day,  the country’s parliament moved quickly to get the independent ombudsman (Lokpal) bill passed.

Hazare, who has been fasting since December 10, has demanded the passage of the Lokpal bill in the current session of parliament.

On Tuesday,  the regional Samajwadi party which was blocking the bill walked out, paving the way for its passage in the Rajya Sabha (upper house of parliament).

Once the bill is passed, it will go to the lower house (Lok Sabha) where a discussion has been scheduled for it on Wednesday. 

With all political parties led by the ruling Congress in favour of passing the Lokpal bill, it most likely will get ready for enactment into law on Wednesday, which will also facilitate Hazare to end his fast.

On Tuesday, doctors attending to the 76-year-old Hazare in his native Ralegan Sidhi village in western Maharashtra state said he had become extremely weak.   Reports quoting his associates said he had lost 4.7 kilograms. His creatinine levels had crossed normal levels while blood pressure was at 142/82.

The government has set up a temporary intensive care unit nearby in case Hazare needs to be hospitalised, reports said.


Meanwhile, union law minister Kapil Sibal who initiated the discussion on the bill described it as a historic occasion as all parties had agreed to pass the bill.

The passage of the Lokpal bill comes at a time when the Aam Aadmi Party has won the Delhi assembly elections contesting on an anti-corruption platform.  Political parties which are getting ready for the national polls in 2014 see the mandate for the debutant party as an indication that people are for an anti-corruption legislation. 

A couple of differences apart, the Lokpal bill seems all set for a smooth passage.  One point of contention is whether to have a provision allowing investigative agencies to search and seize material from the residence or office of an accused without giving prior notice.

Another point of contention is the extent of autonomy to the powerful  Central Bureau of Investigation.

Leader of opposition in the Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley  supporting the bill, asked for a rethink over the jurisdiction of Lokpal. He said the bill would largely succeed in stemming corruption in government.

“There is expectation (of people) that we will give an effective Lokpal,” said reports, quoting Jaitley.

Left front leader Sitaram Yechury welcoming the bill asked that its ambit be expanded to include corruption in the corporate sector.

The only group against the bill, Samajwadi party, said it would scare government officials from taking decisions as they would be afraid of the Lokpal.

“This bill is not in the public interest,” party leader Ramgopal Yadav said. 

Source : Al Jazeera

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