Parliament passes Lokpal Bill

New Delhi, Dec 18 : India's Lok Sabha on Wednesday passed the anti-corruption Lokpal Bill paving the way for a law under which an anti-graft ombudsman would probe financial wrongdoings at highest levels.

Anti-corruption activist Anna Hazare also broke his fast on its ninth day after the passage of the Bill with two small children- a boy and a girl- helping him drink the juice. Activist Kiran Bedi was present at the venue and she spoke passionately about the success of Anna's long movement.

After the passage of the Bill, UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi said she is very happy that the Bill has been passed.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said it was a historic moment, according to media reports.

Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi said: "We had a chance to make history by passing LokpalBill. It is our responsibility to complete unfinished work in fight against corruption."

"This is a big step. But things will not end with this. If you want to actually fight corruption, you need a framework," said Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi saying more bills needed to be passed to make the country corruption free.

Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar had set a four-hour debate for the Bill in Lok Sabha but it all ended in an hour. Lok Sabha was adjourned sine die.

Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj said Congress is trying to take credit for the bill's passage but the credit goes to the people of the country.

BJP president Rajnath Singh congratulated the lawmakers over the passage of the bill.

"The smooth passage of the Lokpal Bill in both the houses is a remarkable achievement. Congratulations to all members of Parliament. I am also happy that Shri Anna Hazare has ended his fast after today's development. It is a historic day in the history of India's Parliamentary democracy," Rajnath Singh said in a facebook post.

"The role of both the Leaders of Opposition Smt Sushma Swaraj and Shri Arun Jaitley deserves special mention as they played a positive and proactive role in getting Lokpal Bill passed in Parliament," he said.

Former top cop turned social activist Kiran Bedi welcomed the move and said the country's destination changed on Wednesday.

"India's destiny has changed. From fearless corruption to fear of corruption! And fear of getting prosecuted by an independent agency!" Bedi tweeted.

"After LP,Anna announced encouraging formation of voluntary grps of eminent legal experts to act as watch dogs at State levels on Lokayukts!" she said.

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

Samajwadi Party of Mulayam Singh Yadav was the lone party opposing the bill.

Lokpal will become a law now, 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.

Some of the important features in the Bill are as below:-

· Lokpal at the Centre and Lokayukta at the level of the States.

· The Lokpal will consist of a Chairperson and a maximum of eight Members, of which fifty percent shall be judicial members.

· Fifty per cent of members of Lokpal shall be from amongst SC/ST/OBCs, Minorities and Women.

· The selection of Chairperson and Members of Lokpal shall be through a Selection Committee consisting of:-

-Prime Minister;

- Speaker of Lok Sabha;

- Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha;

- Chief Justice of India or a sitting Supreme Court judge nominated by CJI;

- Eminent jurist to be nominated by the President of India on the basis of recommendations of the first four members of the Selection Committee.

· Prime Minister has been brought under the purview of the Lokpal.

· Lokpal's jurisdiction will cover all categories of public servants.

· All entities receiving donations from foreign source in the context of the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) in excess of Rs. 10 lakhs per year are brought under the jurisdiction of Lokpal.

· Provides adequate protection for honest and upright Public Servants.

· Lokpal will have power of superintendence and direction over any investigation agency including CBI for cases referred to them by Lokpal.

· A high powered Committee chaired by the Prime Minister will recommend selection of the Director,CBI.

· Directorate of Prosecution headed by a Director of Prosecution under the overall control of Director;

· The appointment of the Director of Prosecution, CBI on the recommendation of the Central Vigilance Commission;

· Transfer of officers of CBI investigating cases referred by Lokpal with the approval of Lokpal;

· The Bill also incorporates provisions for attachment and confiscation of property acquired by corrupt means, even while prosecution is pending.

· The Bill lays down clear time lines for Preliminary enquiry & investigation and trial and

towards this end, the Bill provides for setting up of Special Courts.

· A mandate for setting up of the institution of Lokayukta through enactment of a law by the State Legislature within a period of 365 days from the date of commencement of the Act.

--IBNS (Posted on 19-12-2013)

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