Lokpal Bill on the move, Anna happier and softer

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Celebrating in Ralegan Siddhi. Not all politicians are thieves, Anna stresses.	Express Celebrating in Ralegan Siddhi. Not all politicians are thieves, Anna stresses. Express
SummaryChanges clear Rajya Sabha, head to Lok Sabha today.

Almost 45 years after the fourth Lok Sabha in 1969 passed the Lokpal Bill — which lapsed after it wasn’t passed by the Rajya Sabha — the country is set to get the anti-corruption ombudsman, with the Rajya Sabha passing the amended Lokpal and Lokayuktas Bill Tuesday. The amendments will be introduced in the Lok Sabha Wednesday.

The Samajwadi Party, a strong opponent to the creation of a Lokpal, walked out of the Rajya Sabha when it took up the bill.

Incidentally, almost all the amendments the government Tuesday agreed to are those the BJP was insisting on two years ago when a lack of consensus stopped the bill from clearing the Rajya Sabha. The key ones are:

n Removal of a clause making it mandatory for states to set up a Lokayukta; this had come in the way of the bill’s passage in December 2011.

n A clause stating CBI officials investigating a Lokpal-referred case would not be transferred without the Lokpal’s approval.

n A new selection process for the Lokpal — by a committee comprising the Prime Minister, the Lok Sabha Speaker, the leader of the opposition in that House and the Chief Justice of India, besides a jurist appointed by the President on their recommendation.

n Bringing the PM’s office under the purview of the Lokpal, with safeguards.

To get the bill passed, the government accepted all but three changes recommended by the select committee. Of those not accepted, one suggested an accused public servant should not be given a chance to present his or her view before initiation of investigation. Despite the BJP’s opposition, the government also had its way on the issue of “not less than 50 per cent of the members of Lokpal” being drawn from among SC, ST, OBC, minorities and women.

Barring voting on an amendment proposed by the Left MPs, aimed at bringing public-private partnership (PPP) projects under the jurisdiction of the Lokpal, all other amendments were cleared through voice vote. The Left amendment was defeated, with only 19 MPs supporting it.

Initiating the debate on behalf of the government, Law Minister Kapil Sibal, who moved the bill and later piloted it, said it was a “historic” day and hoped all states would follow suit and pass similar legislation to set up Lokayuktas.

Defending the inclusion of judges on the Lokpal panel, Sibal said it was done as “complex legal” issues are involved. Lawmakers, he said, couldn’t be part

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