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Parliament passes Lokpal Bill

New Delhi, Dec 18 (PTI): Parliament on Wednesday passed the crucial Lokpal Bill with the Lok Sabha adopting the measure as amended by the Rajya Sabha after a short discussion, amid the din created by pro- and anti-Telangana members.

Samajwadi Party and Shiv Sena members, opposing the Bill, walked out in protest, as their counterparts from other parties, including Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi and Leader of the Opposition Sushma Swaraj, supported the measure.

Rahul sought extension of the Winter Session to pass six more bills which were “part of the comprehensive anti- corruption framework” of the United Progressive Alliance government.

”Lokpal Bill alone is not enough to fight corruption. What we need is a comprehensive anti-corruption code. The UPA government has prepared anti-corruption framework,” he said.

”Eight new central laws have been brought...We should complete the unfinished work of fighting corruption...Six anti-corruption bills are pending. If necessary, can we not extend this session of Parliament,” Rahul said as the debate began on the key bill to create an anti-graft ombudsman.

Noting that Lokpal Bill was part of this comprehensive framework, he said the Right to Information Act (RTI) was the first on the UPA list. The others that are pending are Prevention of Corruption amendment, right to citizens for time-bound delivery of goods and services, public procurement, foreign bribery, judicial accountability and the whistleblowers bills, Rahul said.

Swaraj supported the measure but attacked the Congress for clamouring to take credit for it, saying “the people of this country and the old man (Anna Hazare) who has undertaken fast several times deserve the credit.”

Earlier, Speaker Meira Kumar allowed the bill, as amended by the Upper House, to be laid and taken up for consideration by Lok Sabha.

Law Minister Kapil Sibal said discussion on the measure has taken place over past two years both inside and outside the House. The Lok Sabha had passed it in December 2011 and urged the House to adopt the Bill returned by the Rajya Sabha along with the amendments.

The Bill aimed at dealing with the menace of corruption and brings under its purview the Prime Minister with certain safeguards and other public servants.

Speaking on the Bill, Sushma Swaraj said her party had opposed the earlier Lokpal Bill as it was a weak piece of legislation but she was happy that the Rajya Sabha - where the opposition is in majority - had amended it suitably.

Rahul said this was a chance to make history by passing the Lokpal Bill.

”RTI was UPA's most important assault on corruption. Lokpal Bill alone is not enough to fight corruption, we need a comprehensive Anti-Corruption Code,” he said.

”This is about the anti-corruption framework and the framework of justice that we want to deliver to the country,” he added.

SP and Shiv Sena opposed the Bill.

SP Chief Mulayam Singh Yadav said this will bring government work to a halt as government servants will be afraid of carrying out their duties.

”It will create a fear psychosis among the bureaucracy and no official will take a decision or sign a document,” Mulayam Singh Yadav said, pointing out that the law empowers even, a low level policeman to question and investigate senior politicians and public officials.

”This is a very serious issue...Why do we need this kind of Bill,” he said, demanding that the Bill be withdrawn and be taken after a thorough discussion in the next session of the Parliament.

“I am surprised at the Opposition's support for this Bill,” Mulayam Singh Yadav said and urged senior Bharatiya Janata Party leader L K Advani to oppose the Bill, as he led a walkout of SP MPs. Soon thereafter, Anant Geete (SS) also led a walkout of party MPs.

Janata Dal (United) leader Sharad Yadav said he is supporting the Bill as he does not wish to create any hurdle in the work of the government.

He expressed certain reservations about the Lokpal Bill, including the provision of putting the Prime Minister under Lokpal.

”By doing so, the accountability of the Prime Minister will not be to the House but somewhere else,” he said.

Dara Singh Chouhan of the Bahujan Samaj Party said there is a clamour for taking credit for this Bill and “this is also a kind of corruption”.

He noted that any policy, however good, is futile if those implementing it do not have good intentions.

Earlier when the Bill was taken up for discussion and passage, Trinamul Congress member Sougata Roy raised a point of order saying that the measure passed by Rajya Sabha had been circulated among Lok Sabha members only on Wednesday.

He said that the regime, a two-day notice should be given to members before taking up any legislation passed by the other House.

Disposing of his point of order, the Speaker said she had consented for waiving the two-day requirement and the Bill was laid on the table of the House this morning itself.

Throughout the debate on the Lokpal Bill, supporters and opponents of Telangana continued raising slogans in the Well.

YSR Congress chief Jaganmohan Reddy led his party members in the Well while Telugu Desam Party and Congress members, from Telangana and Seemandhra regions, continued shouting in support of their respective demands.

S K Bwiswmuthiary of the Bodoland Peoples Front was also in the Well protesting attacks on tribals in Assam.