The much-delayed Lokpal Bill was today taken up for consideration in Rajya Sabha with most parties agreeing to pass the anti-corruption legislation, except Samajwadi Party which staged a walkout boycotting the House proceedings.
Initiating the discussion on the Bill, Law Minister Kapil Sibal said it was a “historic” day and it was time to celebrate the consensus that had been reached on the issue.
The Lokpal and Lokayuktas Bill, 2011, which could not be passed in the House in December 2011, was brought back after being referred to the Parliamentary Select Committee that recommended a number of amendments to make it widely acceptable among the political parties.
The bill is all set for passage as most of the parties, including main opposition BJP, BSP and Left, expressed their support to the measure.
Samajwadi Party staged a walkout as soon as the discussion began, with its leader Ram Gopal Yadav saying his party could not support the measure.
Sibal sought to allay any apprehension over the new measure, saying there will be no element of government interference in investigation that would be carried out against corruption under the Lokpal.
“I don’t think it is time to laugh or snigger… it is time for us to rise to the occasion,” said Sibal, who was batting for the bill in place of Minister of State for Personnel V Narayanasamy who could not attend the proceedings because of his wife’s illness.
Leader of the Opposition Arun Jaitley, while supporting the Bill, said he was happy that the government had accepted all the changes in “this changed environment”.
He did not elaborate but was apparently referring to the drubbing Congress faced in the just-held assembly elections in Delhi at the hands of Aam Aadmi Party, whose main plank was the Lokpal issue.
Holding that there is a lot of scope for improvement in the present Lokpal Bill, Jaitley objected to the provision of religious-based appointments in Lokpal, saying such kind of reservations were not permitted by the Constitution.
“This bill to that extent suffers from a Constitutional vice. There is no scope in our Constitution for religion-based reservation in appointment of Lokpal,” he said, adding, “My party will fully support this Bill.”
He said whatever happened on December 29, 2011, should not be repeated and the anti-corruption law should be passed to restore credibility in politics, which has seen a drop in the recent past. “Let’s accept it and improve upon it. If we do so, we will try and restore the credibility of politics,” he said.
Sibal was referring to failure to pass the Bill on December 29, 2011 on technical grounds when the discussion continued till midnight and the Chairman adjourned the House sine die.
Taking a dig at Congress for its recent electoral defeat in assembly elections, he said, “In this changed environment, government’s thinking has changed and it has understood the merits of the discussion on December 29. What discussion was continuing for last 46 years, we should accomplish that and pass a law. We should remove the shortcomings and bring a credible and workable law before the nation,” he said.
Commenting on Samajwadi Party’s boycott of proceedings in the House today during discussion on Lokpal Bill, Jaitley said, “To say that the process of decision-making will stop by bringing this law is not right. After this law, the process of decision making will improve and people will fear from taking decisions for wrongful reasons.”
The Leader of the Opposition expressed satisfaction at the government accepting the Select Committee recommendation that all organisations accepting private donations should not be brought under the Lokpal as it will overburden it.
Jaitley asked the government to state that accused public servants should not be informed and given opportunity to present their case at the time of raids and searches against them so that the element of surprise is there.