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Cabinet approves amended Lokpal Bill

Social activists and opposition reject it terming it a sham

Indian Parliament House in New Delhi
Image Credit: Supplied
Indian Parliament House in New Delhi.
Gulf News

NEW DELHI: The federal cabinet yesterday approved major amendments to the Lokpal Bill aimed at arresting corruption.

The amended draft bill, which does not grant autonomy to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), however, failed to impress the social activists and the opposition parties who rejected the revised anti-corruption legislation, terming it as a sham.

“The proposed new draft of the Lokpal Bill is useless. We will continue our fight for the Jan Lokpal Bill and force the government to pass it,” anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare, who shook the government with his string of hunger strikes and public protests, said.

Interestingly, the draft of the amended bill was passed by the cabinet at its meeting headed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh despite objections from the law ministry.

The Lokpal Bill was passed by the Lok Sabha on December 27, 2011. It, however, could not become a law as it was not put to vote due to sharp differences amongst political parties and lack of time. The bill was letter referred by the Rajya Sabha chairman Hamid Ansari to the select committee which proposed 16 amendments, of which 14 were accepted by the government.

The proposed amended bill has left out the contentious issue of appointment of Lokayukta for the states, suggesting it must be passed by state assemblies within 365 days of the bill being passed by the parliament.

The amended Lokpal Bill is now be presented before Rajya Sabha for debate and voting during the upcoming budget session of Parliament. Once approved by the Rajya Sabha, it would be referred back to the Lok Sabha for its re-approval before it becomes law of the land.

The amended Lokpal Bill may instead bring together both Hazare and his ex-close associate Arvind Kejriwal who now heads the Aam Admi Party.

Hazare who is currently in Bihar capital Patna, said that the bill will help none and cannot help fight corruption. “I will visit people in towns and villages across the country in coming months to awaken their conscience,” Hazare, who Wednesday announced that he would form a Jantantra Morcha to fight for people’s rights, said.

“Why should you have any Lokpal? If an agency is created which will not stop corruption, will lead to increased corruption and provide protection to ministers, then what is the point,” Kejriwal asked.

“Half of the ministers of the same cabinet, which passed the bill today (Thursday), will be in jail if a strong Lokpal comes,” Kejriwal added.

The revised bill incorporates a number of changes including appointment of the Director of Prosecution by the Chief Vigilance Commissioner.

Selection committee of Lokpal consists of the Lok Sabha speaker, prime minister, leader of opposition, chief justice of India and eminent jurist. The eminent jurist will be identified by the other four and the President will approve it.

The principal opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) also disapproved the amended bill saying the process of appointment of Lokpal should be transparent and free from government control:

“By ignoring our recommendations, the government has proved that it is not serious on giving autonomy to the CBI,” BJP spokesman Ravi Shankar Prasad said.