New Delhi, Dec 17: The Rajya Sabha Tuesday finally passed the much delayed Lokpal bill, paving the way for setting up an ombudsman to battle corruption in the government and among public servants.
The Lokpal and Lokayuktas Bill 2011 was passed by voice vote at the end of over five hours of debate in the upper house that saw political parties broadly supporting the legislation but saying it must be more effective.
The Samajwadi Party, which has opposed the bill, staged a boycott and did not take part in the debate.
The bill had been pending in the Rajya Sabha for almost two years as opposition members had reservations on the draft passed by the Lok Sabha in December 2011.
A select committee had examined the bill in detail and given its recommendations, many of which were incorporated by the government in the amended bill tabled in the Rajya Sabha last week.
The amended bill will now go to the Lok Sabha where it is expected to be taken up Wednesday.
Law Minister Kapil Sibal called it a historic moment but stressed that corruption cannot be removed by the Lokpal alone.
“Law alone will not lead to elimination of corruption. Law will help deal with those who are corrupt but it will not deal with the impetus to be corrupt. It will just be a deterrent,” he said.
The Lokpal bill has hogged national limelight after activist Anna Hazare led a massive protest involving hundreds of thousands in the capital in 2011.
Hazare is again on fast in his village in Maharashtra for the past eight days but has promised to call it off after the Lokpal legislation is enacted.
Apart from establishing Lokpal in New Delhi, the bill provides for creation of Lokayuktas in states within a year of the notification of the law. The states will be sent a model bill to frame their own laws.
Taking part in the debate, Bharatiya Janata Party leader Arun Jaitley said people wanted parliament to enact an effective Lokpal.
But the leader of the opposition in the Rajya Sabha said his party was against religion-based appointments in Lokpal as it was against the spirit of the constitution.
He also urged the government to get the whistle blowers’ protection bill and citizens grievance redress bill passed by parliament.
Marxist Sitaram Yechury demanded that the corporate sector should be brought under the ambit of Lokpal in relation to the government projects it undertakes.
He said the bill was seeking to tackle the “demand side” of corruption but not the “supply side”.
“If a (government) contract is acquired through corrupt means, how can you have it out of Lokpal?” Yechury asked and demanded that public private partnership (PPP) projects should come under the ambit of the bill.
According to the bill, the Lokpal will consist of a chairperson and a maximum of eight members.
It will cover the prime minister with certain conditions, ministers, current and former MPs and legislators, government employees and staff of companies funded or controlled by the central government.
It also has in its ambit societies and trusts which collect public money.
According to PRS Legislative, a think tank tracking the work of parliament, the bill also provides for penalty for false and and frivolous complaints.
Any inquiry must be completed within 60 days and investigation within six months.
Lokpal will have superintendence over the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in relation to cases referred by it.
The Lokpal can initiate prosecution through its prosecution wing before a special court.