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Congress, BJP slug it out over Lokpal Bill in Rajya Sabha

The battle over the provisions related to the CBI, CVC, Prime Minister, government employees, Lokayuktas and reservation in the Lokpal Bill set off the debate in the Rajya Sabha as the BJP and Congress countered and accused each other for creating hurdles in the way of the implementation of a strong anti-corruption mechanism.

December 29, 2011 / 03:19 PM IST

The battle over the provisions related to the CBI, CVC, Prime Minister, government employees, Lokayuktas and reservation in the Lokpal Bill set off the debate in the Rajya Sabha as the BJP and Congress countered and accused each other for creating hurdles in the way of the implementation of a strong anti-corruption mechanism.


While the Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley said that the government has consciously brought in a Bill that is Constitutionally vulnerable, Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi blamed the BJP for trying to push for a separate law that will create a giant structure above the government, which will dominate the government.


On the provision for quota of 'at least' 50 per cent for minorities in the 9-member Lokpal bench, Jaitley said it was to designed to make the law 'vulnerable to Constitutional challenge', as somebody could move court.


On the issue of reservation, Singhvi stated, "Lokpal does not have reservation; it has representation. Reservation to honour pluralistic diversity of India." Singhvi also pointed out that the BJP hasn't understood the quota division.


Jaitley said that the government should not go against the federal structure of the country and questioned government's power to appoint and remove Lokpal listed in the Bill. He also advocated for the complete independence of the CBI.


He said, "Government's bill is an unworkable and impossible mechanism. Make CBI an autonomous, impartial institution. Neither Lokpal nor Central government should've the right to interfere in investigations."


Singhvi responded by saying, "Don't ridicule the CBI. Lokpal Bill should not destroy the CBI and the CVC. Lokpal, CBI and CVC must depend on each other."


The BJP leader, who initiated the debate on the Lokpal bill in the house, said that the government has introduced an absurd and complicated Bill. "Government controls the selection and appointment of Lokpal. It also controls both appointment and removal of Lokpal. Under the provisions, enquiry against the Prime Minister is impossible," he said.


"We don't want the present bill but also don't want to go back today without passing a Lokpal bill. We want a strong Lokpal bill," he added.


Calling for sense of the nation to prevail, he appealed to all the members of the House to support passage of a strong Lokpal bill.


"We could not pass the Lokpal bill eight times before and that has put a question mark on all of us. The whole country is watching our debate and people will not forgive those supporting a weak Lokpal bill," he said.


Commenting at the BJP-led NDA, Singhvi said, "NDA wants us to do the things it never did when in power."


Singhvi asked the Opposition to "pass the Bill for India's sake". "Debate seriously, not with the intent to ridicule," said Singhvi.


The BJP is making excuses not to pass the Lokpal bill, Singhvi said while hitting out at the opposition party for not having the courage to make its stance clear.


Attacking Leader of the House in Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley, Singhvi said the fundamental question was, do you want to pass a Lokpal bill or not?


"They (BJP) are making statements of stringent conditions in the bill and are saying they want to pass a strong and comprehensive bill but after three months. They are using it (conditions) as a pretext not to pass the bill," Singhvi said.


"If you don't want to pass the bill, say so and have the courage and don't hide in excuses. Don't hide from the nation that you are passing the bill and your colleagues in the other house say refer it to the standing committee. Please be honest in your convictions and take a stand," he told the BJP.


Going clause-by-clause in the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Bill, 2011, Jaitley said the ombudsman was "designed to be vulnerable to constitutional challenge. Let us create an institution which is constitutionally possible."


Referring to the provision on the setting up of Lokayuktas in the state, the BJP leader and noted lawyer said it would lead to creating 'a grey area' by which the Centre can usurp powers of states. "Why are you creating a constitutional havoc? The government is trying to make constitutional cocktail," he said.


With regard to CBI, Jaitely wanted it to be under the purview of Lokpal with a directorate of prosecution. "An effective Lokpal needs an effective investigating agency like the CBI. You are creating a Lokpal so that it becomes a rudderless institution," he charged.


On the provision for quota of 'at least' 50 per cent for minorities in the 9-member Lokpal bench, he said it was to designed to make the law 'vulnerable to Constitutional challenge", as somebody could move court.


The Lokpal and Lokayuktas Bill, 2011, already passed by Lok Sabha, was moved for consideration by Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs V Narayanasamy amid questions over its passage in view of stiff opposition by various parties,


including UPA ally Trinamool Congress. The UPA does not enjoy a majority in the Upper House.

Pushing for passage of the crucial bill, Narayanasamy said it "is in line with the sense of the House" expressed on August 27.

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