New Delhi, Aug 4 : The much-debated Lokpal Bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha today amid objections from the BJP and its NDA partners over exclusion of the Prime Minister from the purview of the proposed legislation.
Just before introduction of the bill, Speaker Meira Kumar gave permission to Leader of the Opposition Sushma Swaraj to express her views as a special case under Rule 72. Swaraj said when the Prime Minister does not enjoy immunity from prosecution under the criminal law and Prevention of Corruption Act, why is he being kept out of the ambit of the Lokpal.
She maintained that as per the Constitution, everybody was equal and there is no immunity from IPC, CrPC or the Prevention of Corruption Act.
“It is for the first time that under Clause 2 of the Lokpal Bill, all Union ministers are included except the Prime Minister.
I don't understand why. How can anybody occupying any position be a holy cow. Why is the Prime Minister being kept out of its purview?” Swaraj posed.
She stated that then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had put the debate to rest during NDA rule by saying that if he is not under its purview it will have no meaning. She was referring to the Lokpal Bill proposed by the NDA government which was ultimately not introduced in Parliament.
“As chairperson of the then Standing Committee on Home, Pranab Mukherjee had accepted that the Prime Minister should be within the purview of the Lokpal. The Prime Minister (Manmohan Singh) has himself said he wants to be within its ambit. Why is the Cabinet not paying heed to his views?” she asked.
Swaraj said the BJP had several objections to the proposed Bill but would, for the moment, confine herself to only the exclusion of PM.
“We will object to introduction of the Lokpal Bill,” she said.
NDA Convenor and JD-U President Sharad Yadav stood up to say something but the Speaker did not permit him as he had not given a prior notice.
Minister of State in PMO V Narayanasamy, who introduced the bill, said the Prime Minister had offered to be within the purview of the Lokpal but the Cabinet did not agree. “Ultimately this bill will go to the Standing Committee. Your objection cannot be sustained,” he told the Opposition benches.
Mukherjee told the House that Swaraj's contention that he gave his nod to the NDA Lokpal Bill is true.
“On February 16, 2002 as Chairperson of the Standing Committee on Home, I had placed that bill on the table of the House. NDA had two full years after that. Why did they not bring the bill,” Mukherjee said.
When Narayanasamy introduced the Bill, the BJP and NDA members objected to it.
Earlier, in his reply to the motion on price rise,Mukherjee said the government has taken views of the civil society but “there was no question of diluting the authority of Parliament in making the legislation.”
He said that in the case of Lokpal Bill, normallegislative process will be followed.
In Delhi, Team Anna Hazare leaders and supporters led by Kiran Bedi and Arvind Kejriwal made a bonfire of copies of the bill to mark their protest.
In Ralegan Siddhi village, Maharashtra, activist Anna Hazare led his supporters to burn copies of the bill. Hazare said, this is a “useless” (nikamma) bill because the Lokpal that would be appointed by this bill will be a “sarkari” Lokpal. “This is a fraud (dhokhadhadi)”, said Hazare even as his supporters made bonfire of copies of the bill.
Prashant Bhushan, one of the leading supporters of Hazare, said in Delhi that the government's version of Lokpal Bill was of no use, because five out of the nine members who will select the Lokpal will belong to the government.
Hazare asserted that he would go ahead with his fast beginning August 16 till a strong Lokpal law is brought in. Amidst sloganeering against government, Hazare said it was the last chance to eradicate corruption from the country and that the protest should be organised all over to ensure that a strong Lokpal Bill is brought in.
“This is a bad and weak Bill which is introduced in Parliament. We need a new and strong Bill. I trusted them when they said they will bring a strong law and ended my fast in April. They cheated me.
“But at the protest starting from August 16, I am not going to withdraw from my fast on some assurances. What we need is a strong bill,” he said.
He claimed the government would have fallen if he had continued his fast then for another three days. The government does not fear fast or protests but they fear the voice of people, he said, adding that people should acquire this power to overthrow governments.
However, he said, his protest is not to change the government but system. Alleging that it was an insult to Parliament and
people, Kejriwal described the bill as “anti-poor and anti-Dalit” which does not help the poor in fighting corruption. By bringing a “weak” Lokpal Bill, Kejriwal alleged the government was challenging the countrymen.
He said they expected the government will come out with a stronger version of the bill but they were cheated. Countering suggestions that the bill can be further debated in the Standing Committee, Kejriwal said the panel cannot alter or change the provisions as it can only give suggestions.
“Parliament has been given a fait accompli. This isinsult of the people and Parliament,” he added. Bhushan and Bedi said what they were demanding was an independent agency which could probe corruption. PTI