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Lokpal Bill tabled, Anna group protets

Source : IBNS
Last Updated: Thu, Aug 04, 2011 08:52 hrs

New Delhi, Aug 4 (IBNS) The government's draft of the anti-corruption Lokpal Bill was tabled in the Lok Sabha on Thursday, setting the stage for yet another high-strung session in the House that has been plagued by cacophonous bickering this week.

As the bill was tabled in the House, there were protest s outside with the Team Anna members burning copies of the government draft.

They protested calling the government version a Joke-Pal Bill.

"This is anti-poor," said Arvind Kejriwal, a key member of the Anna group.



In the House, opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Sushma Swaraj asked why the PM was kept outside the purview of the Bill.

Rejecting the version of the civil society representatives, the union cabinet on July 28 approved the Lokpal Bill draft by the ministers in the drafting panel, keeping the office of Prime Minister and higher judiciary outside its ambit on expected lines.

The Bill provides for the establishment of the institution of Lokpal (Ombudsman) to inquire into allegations of corruption against certain public functionaries and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.

Against the wishes of the civil society representatives led by social activist Anna Hazare, the Prime Minister was kept outside the purview of the Lokpal, who will be an anti-corruption ombudsman empowered to probe high corruption.

The PM, however, can be probed by the Lokpal after he demits office.

The MPs when they speak in Parliament will not be under the Lokpal, but they would otherwise be under its purview, the cabinet approved draft said.

The higher judiciary is also outside the purview of the Lokpal Bill draft.

"The salient features of the proposed draft bill are that the Lokpal will consist of a chairperson and eight members of which 50 percent judicial members," said union minister Ambica Soni earlier.

The chairperson will be from judiciary and only a serving or retired Chief Justice of India or a judge of the Supreme Court will be eligible to be appointed as the chairperson, she said.

"The members other than the judicial member should be a person of impeccable integrity, outstanding ability and should have special knowledge and expertise of not less than 25 years in matters relating to anti-corruption policy, public administration, vigilance, finance including insurance and banking, law and management.

"In the overall thrust of the UPA government after instituting, legislating Right To Information Act in the first UPA government the thrust has been greater accountability and transparency in public life," she said.

"We will also introduce judicial Accountability Bill, Whistle Blowers´ Protection Bill, and the CVC (Chief Vigilance Commissioner) bill," she said.

The government said after the Prime Minister demitted his office he will be under the Lokpal Bill.

Anna Hazare group member and former supercop Kiran Bedi said the draft that was approved had nothing for common man.

"It is not only PM and higher judiciary, but many other things, many vital posts and agencies are kept out. It is a fractured bill. There is nothing for the common man," said Kiran Bedi, a key member of the civil society group spearheading the movement for a strong Lokpal.

The joint-committee of five ministers and five activists had come up with two separate drafts of the Lokpal bill after key differences emerged between the two sides.

Anna Hazare had earlier threatened to start another hunger strike from Aug 16 if the bill failed to address the concerns of the people on corruption.

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