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Lokpal Bill passed in Rajya Sabha

New Delhi, Dec 17 : In a rare political consensus, the Rajya Sabha on Tuesday passed the Lokpal Bill after hours of debate, triggering jubilation in a village in Maharashtra where social activist Anna Hazare was undergoing fast in demand of the anti-corruption law.


The Lok Sabha (Lower House) will debate the bill on Wednesday.

While there were celebrations in Ralegan Siddhi village of Anna over the passage, the self-styled Gandhian said he would break his fast after it is passed in Lok Sabha.

Lokpal will become a law once it is passed in Lok Sabha, ending a nearly 45-year-long struggle for it which was intensified in recent times by the frequent fasts by Anna Hazare and his followers.

Lokpal or national ombudsman will be empowered to probe corruption charges against public figures and government officials, and even the Prime Minister.

"It is a revolutionary step in Rajya Sabha today after 40 years. Tomorrow it will be so in Lok Sabha I believe," said Anna and shouted slogans like "Bandemataram and Inquilab Zindabad".

"I urge Lok Sabha members to pass the bill," said Anna.

Later Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath also called the move historic. "People's faith will again be restored. It is a historic day. It was the need of the hour because of the growing lack of confidence in the political and administrative system," he said.

Union Law Minister Kapil Sibal said the law will be strong and it will go a long way in fighting corruption. "I give credit to the political class for this," he said.

Earlier in the day, decks were cleared for the passage of the Lokpal Bill in the Rajya Sabha with all parties barring the Samajwadi Party, which walked out of the House in protest but did not disrupt enough the proceedings, reaching a consensus on it and supporting the bill during the debate.

As Anna Hazare's fast entered its eighth day in his native village in Maharashtra, the Bill for which he fought finally was passed in the upper house. Anna Hazare was watching the proceedings of the House from his fast venue.

"We want to pass the Bill," said Leader of Opposition in Parliament Arun Jaitley, adding that the political atmosphere has changed in India and federalism and battle against corruption cannot co-exist.

Speaking on the debate, Union Law Minister Kapil Sibal thanked all for the consensus and said people are fed up with corruption at even the highest level.

"It is the time for us to celebrate the consensus on the bill," he said.

Prime Minister has been brought under the purview of the Lokpal, he said.

Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) member Sitaram Yechury even wanted to skip the lunch to debate the bill.

While BJP wants to keep the private bodies out of Lokpal's jurisdiction, Yechury said it should come under its purview to target the supply side of corruption.

"The jurisdiction of the Lokpal predominantly should be where government revenue is involved," said Jaitley in the debate.

The House earlier on Tuesday was adjourned till noon following an uproar over several issues, even before a discussion on the Lokpal Bill could be initiated.

As soon as Rajya Sabha Chairperson Hamid Ansari asked the government to initiate the discussion on the Lokpal Bill, Samajwadi Party (SP) MPs started uproar over price rise, while the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) created ruckus over the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) summit in Sri Lankan capital Colombo.

The Trinamool Congress (TMC) shouted slogans demanding action on former Supreme Court judge and present West Bengal Human Rights Commission chief Justice AK Ganguly, who has been accused of sexually harassing a law intern.

Meanwhile, SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav and leader Ram Gopal Yadav met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on the Lokpal Bill issue.

The meeting was also attended by Congress president Sonia Gandhi, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath and Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde.

Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi has replied to a letter sent by fasting Gandhian social activist Anna Hazare and said the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government is committed to the Lokpal Bill.

"Rahul Ji thanks Anna Ji. Says his letter will further encourage him. Rahul Ji respects Anna's role in Lokpal," tweeted Congress general secretary Ajay Maken on Tuesday.

"Anna Ji welcomes Rahul Ji's commitment to Lokpal," he said.

"Rahul ji has always been committed for transparency. RTI was the base of the framework. Lokpal will be one of the seven building blocks," Maken posted on micro-blogging site Twitter.

Ansari on Monday called an-all party meet to end the deadlock over the Lokpal Bill.

"We discussed the Lokpal Bill passage in the all-party meeting and it will be passed in Rajya Sabha tomorrow," said Kamal Nath after the all party meeting on Monday.

He told reporters all parties will request the SP to not oppose it.

SP and Mayawati's Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) skipped the all-party meeting.But BSP later supported the Bill.

The SP said it will not support the Bill at any cost.

--IBNS (Posted on 17-12-2013)

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