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India anti-corruption bill's fate uncertain

Publication Date : 21-05-2012

 

Signalling that it could still bring the Lokpal Bill in the current Parliament session in the Rajya Sabha, the Indian government yesterday circulated among members of the Upper House a notice for an amendment to the bill concerning the provision for establishing Lokayuktas in states, one of the key points over which United Progressive Alliance ally Trinamul Congress and some opposition parties have been opposing the bill.

Lokpal or the Citizen's Ombudsman Bill is a draft anti-corruption bill drawn up by prominent civil society activists seeking the appointment of a Jan Lokpal, an independent corruption investigation body.

The notice, among other things, says that the provision of Lokayukta will be applicable only in those states where the legislature adopts a resolution to that effect.

The development also signifies that the government is still toying with the idea of bringing the Bill in the Upper House before the Budget Session concludes on Tuesday.

However, the order paper for today does not have the Lokpal Bill on the agenda. “A decision will be taken (today)”, a Union minister involved in the process said.

Earlier there were indications that the much debated bill, instead of being brought in the Rajya Sabha, could be referred to a Joint Select Committee in view of the lack of consensus on its key provisions.

When a bill comes up before a House for discussion, it may be referred to a Select Committee of the House or a Joint Committee of the two Houses. The Select or the Joint Select Committee considers the bill clause by clause just as the two Houses do.

A senior Congress leader, who declined to be identified, said the possibility of the bill being referred to a Joint Select Committee, cannot be ruled out.

The absence of consensus on key provisions of the legislation, including the one dealing with Lokpal's superintendence over the CBI appears to be deterring the government from bringing the bill in the Rajya Sabha this week. The bill has already been passed by the Lok Sabha.

Even senior government functionaries seem to be clueless whether the bill in its amended form would be taken up by the Upper House on Monday or Tuesday.

Evidently, the government’s bid to hammer out a broad-based consensus among all political parties on certain highly contentious provisions of the bill, has not succeeded so far.

Even if the amended bill is passed by the Rajya Sabha, it will again have to be referred back to the Lok Sabha for its fresh approval, which might not be possible with the current session coming to an end on May 22.

As the government would not like a replay of the unprecedented scenes, which were witnessed on the last day of the Winter session when the bill was taken up by the Upper House, it is said to be mulling over the option of again deferring it to the next session.

"If no substantive consensus is worked out, the bill might be deferred for the next monsoon session,” said a minister.

 

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