India: Cabinet clears new revised Lokpal Bill

Thursday, January 31, 2013
Anti-graft crusader Anna Hazare during his
agitation for Lokpal Bill [File Photo]
New Delhi: The cabinet on Thursday cleared the Lokpal Bill and gave its nod to many of the recommendations made by the Rajya Sabha selection committee that has examined the proposed bill.

The passed bill is unlikely to convince Indian activist groups led by Anna Hazare and Arvind Kejriwal as it exclude political parties from its jurisdiction and also threw out the proposal for the appointment of the Central Bureau of Investigation chief by a collegium comprising the PM, leader of opposition and the Chief Justice of India.

“Political parties were being kept outside the purview of the anti-graft ombudsman as their functioning was covered by the Representation of People's Act,” Minister of state for PMO (Prime Minister Office) V Narayanasamy informed the Cabinet.

The committee appointed to look into the matter which also had presented its version of the lower house (Lok Sabha) in November last year, has now recommended that a panel comprising the prime minister, Chief Justice of India and leader of the opposition in Lok Sabha should appoint the CBI director.

This stipulation was also a part of the bill which was tabled on the floor of the house and passed by the Lok Sabha in December 2011, but since the legislation got stuck  in Rajya Sabja.

The anti-graft supervisory body will be a group of nine-member who will be picked by a committee of PM, Speaker, CJI, leader of the opposition including an eminent jurist.  

The recommendation that the CBI officials probing cases handed over by the lokpal should not be shifted without its permission, too, was not accepted.

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) the main opposition party in India has said government was not serious in its fight against corruption.  

Social activist Anna Hazare, who launched a stir for an independent anti-graft watchdog  Hazare has termed the amendments as a "farce" while the BJP said the government didn't want to free lokpal as well as the CBI of its control.

In all, the government accepted 14 of 16 recommendations of the select committee.

The approval of the official amendments now paves the way for consideration of the bill afresh by the Rajya Sabha during the budget session expected to begin towards the end of February.

After getting a nod from the Upper House, the bill with amendments will go back for fresh approval to Lok Sabha where it has already been passed.
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