New Delhi, Dec 18 (IANS) Parliament finally passed a sweeping anti-corruption bill Wednesday which Prime Minister Manmohan Singh described as “a historic and landmark step” to fight corruption in the country.
The Samajwadi Party (SP) was the lone dissenter while other parties gave their approval to the Lokpal and Lokayukta Bill, 2011.
The Rajya Sabha adopted the amended bill Tuesday and it came to the Lok Sabha Wednesday for a final yes.
“It is a historic and landmark step,” Manmohan Singh told reporters after the Lok Sabha passed it amidst din.
Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi said more anti-corruption legislations were on the anvil. “We need more bills and we have the framework. The Congress has bills in the pipeline that need to be passed,” Gandhi told reporters.
Gandhi, who also took part in the debate on the bill, sought the extension of the winter session to pass six bills that were “part of the comprehensive anti-corruption framework” of the United Progressive Alliance government.
Activist Anna Hazare ended his nine-day long fast at Ralegan Siddhi in Maharashtra after the Lok Sabha passed the Lokpal bill.
“The bill has been passed by both houses of parliament. But we cannot be complacent. The real work will begin now. We must remain ever vigilant,” said Hazare, whose agitation in 2011 had galvanised public anger against corruption.
But Hazare’s former associate, Arvind Kejriwal, remained a dissenter outside parliament.
Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) termed the Lokpal legislation as a “welcome bill” for corrupt politicians.
“It is a bad day for social activism in the country. It is a welcome bill for every corrupt politician,” AAP leader Kumar Vishwas told IANS.
“The bill is a betrayal to the promise made to the people at the Ramlila Maidan in Delhi (where Hazare led an agitation),” he added.
The bill was pending in the Rajya Sabha for almost two years as opposition members had reservations on the draft passed by the Lok Sabha in December 2011.
A select committee examined it in detail and gave its recommendations, many of which were incorporated in the amended bill, tabled in the Rajya Sabha last week.
Law Minister Kapil Sibal moved the amended Lokpal bill in the Lok Sabha at 12 noon Wednesday.
Participating in the debate, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Sushma Swaraj said the government should not make any attempt to take credit for the passage of the bill because it should go to Anna Hazare.
She said her party opposed the bill earlier as it was a weak legislation but was happy the Rajya Sabha amended it suitably.
Janata Dal (United) leader Sharad Yadav supported the bill but expressed apprehension it would stall development in the country.
SP leader Mulayam Singh Yadav said: “This is a dangerous bill. It will lead to anarchy. You must withdraw it.” The SP walked out of the Lok Sabha in protest against the bill.
Apart from establishing Lokpal, the bill also provides for the creation of Lokayuktas in the states within a year of the notification of the law.
According to the bill, the Lokpal will consist of a chairperson and a maximum of eight members. It will cover the prime minister with certain conditions, ministers, current and former MPs and legislators, government employees and staff of companies funded or controlled by the central government.
According to PRS Legislative, a think tank tracking the work of parliament, the bill also provides for penalty for false and frivolous complaints. Lokpal will have superintendence over the Central Bureau of Investigation in cases referred by it.
Nikhil Dey, co-convenor of the National Campaign for Peoples’ Right to Information, said the Lokpal bill was a part of a basket of accountability measures that should be put into place by the government.
“This (Lokpal bill) will allow people to deal with big corruption. The Lokpal bill has some shortcomings but it certainly is a step forward,” Dey told IANS.
He said the grievance redressal bill will prove to be “the Lokpal of common man” but it has not yet been passed by parliament.