Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Lokpal Bill unlikely to pass (rediff)

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The Lokpal bill is unlikely to pass in both houses of Parliament said a senior source in the government while talking to rediff.com on condition of anonymity. The source was privy to the process of making of the bill and has seen the final copy of the bill passed by the Cabinet on Tuesday.
"I find it impossible. This bill will not stand the scrutiny of many MPs. There are too many sticking points. Some members would like to tear it away. Anna Hazare can go on fast but just to cajole him the members of Parliament won't accept anything given to them," he said.
Bharatiya Janata Party has already started their protest saying that they disagree with the provisions related to the Central Bureau of Investigation. The BJP's problem with the government's bill is predictable, but those political parties who have not spoken much as yet are likely to reject the bill on few other issues. Some political party will have a serious problem with the 50 percent quota for weaker sections and minorities.    
The source, who is well-versed with parliamentary procedures said, "There are two issues the government will not be able to respond to. The bill that the Cabinet has approved today is vastly different from the bill that was tabled in Parliament on August 4. The difference between the two bills is of an elephant and a donkey!"  
He said that even the name of the bill has changed from Lokpal Bill, 2011 to Lokpal and Lokayukta Bill, 2011.
He argued that a few MPs would insist that this new bill too should be sent to the Standing Committee for review just as the old one.
In fact, on Monday, while talking to the media, Pawan Bansal, Parliamentary affairs minister, had responded on the issue. He had informed that the bill tabled on August 4 will be withdrawn and a new bill will replace it.
Bansal had said that recently the Companies Bill had come back to Parliament from the Standing Committee after getting suggestions asking for 125 plus amendments. Many of them were accepted and incorporated in the final draft. So, to make a clean copy the new Companies Bill had been introduced, but it wasn't sent to the Standing Committee.
Bansal hoped that MPs will not ask the government to send the "new Lokpal bill" to the Standing Committee. But, government is not sure that the bill, which has been approved on Tuesday, will be accepted without any members' insisting to follow the normal procedure.  
A more serious issue that will become a sticking point is the inclusion of the Lokayukta factor in the bill approved by the Cabinet. When the Lokpal Bill was tabled on August 4, it was named Lokpal Bill, 2011, because it had no mention of provision of Lokayukta.
But, in the final version issue, Lokayukta is mentioned. The government is bound to do so because Lok Sabha had promised Anna Hazare under "sense of house" resolution that, "This House agrees 'in principle' on the following issues -- (i) citizens' charter, (ii) lower bureaucracy under Lokpal through an appropriate mechanism, and (iii) establishment of Lokayuktas in the States."
Accordingly, the Cabinet on Tuesday approved this highly controversial addition to the Lokpal Bill, which is surely going to be questioned by many state governments. The new bill is likely to be called Lokpal and Lokayukta Bill, 2011.
Former Chief Justice J S Verma put forth his opinion on the issue of creating a provision by the Centre for Lokyauktas in state. He believes that the Centre can bring in Lokayuktas bill along with the Lokpal. Justice Verma thinks that the Article 253 of the Constitution empowers Parliament to enact a law for entire India or any part of India. 
Last month central government had ratified the United Nations Convention against Corruption. It empowers the Central government to implement any law to honour international treaty or obligations. The government can argue that the international treaty requires it to form Lokpal and Lokayuktas. The Right to Information act is one such act that extends to the whole of India, except the State of Jammu and Kashmir .
In the coming three days the country will see how the Indian Parliament is completely divided on the government's version of the Lokpal and Lokayukta Bill, 2001, and how they are covertly united in dumping the idea of Lokpal.

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