New Delhi, Dec 27: The Lokpal Bill was today rejected as weak and inadequate by several parties which wanted it to be withdrawn even as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh pushed for it while rejecting demands for bringing CBI under the ambit of the anti-graft ombudsman.
BJP led the attack in Lok Sabha with Leader of the Opposition Sushma Swaraj saying it should be sent back to the Parliamentary Standing Committee for further discussion to make it “effective and strong”.
“Accept our amendments or withdraw the Bill... Send it back to standing committee for further discussion,” she said while describing it as a “patently unconstitutional” legislation which the Opposition will not “tolerate”.
Not to be left behind, UPA partners, Trinamool Congress and DMK, also supporting parties like RJD and SP, maintained that the provisions to create Lokayuktas through a central legislation would impinge on the powers of the states and wanted that it should not be rushed under pressure of the Anna Hazare movement.
Members of these parties, as well as those from RJD, BJD and TDP said the legislation was not adequate and sought in-depth discussion. RJD chief Lalu Prasad also demanded its withdrawal contending that the Bill was brought in “haste under pressure”.
Pushing for passage of the Bill, the Prime Minister said a “holistic” approach was needed to deal with the “cancer” of corruption but rejected demands for bringing CBI under the purview of Lokpal, warning that no entity should be created inconsistent with the country's Constitutional framework.
In his intervention, Singh also dismissed opposition to the provision on setting up of Lokayuktas in states, saying federalism cannot be an impediment in the war against corruption as essential services in the states are the “bane” of corrupt practices.
Rejecting opposition demands for bringing CBI under the purview of Lokpal, Singh said, “I believe that the CBI should function independently of the Lokpal. We believe that the CBI should function without interference through any Government diktat.”
Speaking amidst animated debate that coincided with Hazare's hunger strike in Mumbai, the Prime Minister, who was present in the House throughout the debate, underlined that the task of legislation was “very serious business and must eventually be performed by all of us who have been constitutionally assigned this duty.”
Tearing into the Bill in its present form, Swaraj said it would “sow the seeds of second partition” as it has the provision for religion-based reservation which was “patently unconstitutional”.
The Leader of the Opposition also raised objections to several issues including creation of Lokayukta through the Lokpal Bill and the process of appointment and removal of the ombudsman and demanded inclusion of CBI under its ambit, saying she had moved amendments on these counts.
She dismissed as “farce” the way the bill has included the Prime Minister in its purview. “You have brought the Prime Minister with a lot of protection so that no one will be able to touch him,” she said, questioning the provision for in-camera proceedings and disallowing making public these proceedings even through RTI.
Demanding that Lokpal should be accountable to both Parliament and Supreme Court, CPI(M) leader Basudeb Acharia said corruption by corporates and business houses should be brought under the Lokpal ambit.
HRD Minister Kapil Sibal, who led the Congress counter-charge, hit out at the BJP saying it had “political motives” to delay the Bill so that it benefits them in the upcoming polls through Anna Hazare's campaign. “If you oppose this Bill, you will be violating the sense of the House and people will never forgive you,” he told the Opposition.
UPA partners, Trinamool Congress and DMK, struck a discordant note saying the Lokpal Bill's provisions to create Lokayuktas would encroach upon the rights of the states.
“Don't undermine the rights of the state legislatures. Does the present legislation not take away the rights of the states,” Trinamool Congress MP Kalyan Banerjee asked.
DMK leader T K S Elangovan asked the Centre to keep the law-making powers of the states with them and protect their rights. “Please ensure that the law-making power to create the Lokayuktas remain with the states,” he said.
They also maintained that the legislation should not be passed under pressure from outside.
SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav asked the government to accept the amendments moved by the Opposition to ensure a strong Lokpal.
“The whole country is thinking how to end corruption and is hoping this bill will end corruption. But there is only one way, that is to accept the amendments that are being brought,” he said, pitching for complete autonomy to the Central Vigilance Commission and the CBI.
Dara Singh Chauhan (BSP) wanted the CBI to be under the control of the Lokpal to free the investigation agency from the pulls and pressures of politics.
Sharad Yadav (JD-U) asked the government why it was “scared” of Hazare's agitation, but said the Bill, in its current form, was a “dacoity on the rights of the states. We reject this.”
He said the single issue of Lokpal had overtaken all other serious matters like 2G, JPC, CWG, Air India scams.
Like Shiv Sena and AIMIM, Supriya Sule of NCP wanted that the Prime Minister should not be brought within the ambit of the Lokpal. But, AIMIM member Asaduddin Owaisi opposed the bill and asked the government not to succumb to Hazare's fast.