Lokpal Bill passed by Parliament; Anna Hazare breaks fast
NEW DELHI/RALEGAN SIDDHI: After eight unsuccessful attempts over the last five decades, India on Wednesday took the historic step of enacting the Lokpal law by which an anti-corruption watchdog would be established that will have in its purview even the office of the Prime Minister.
The Lokpal and Lokayukta Bill, 2013, was passed by voice vote amid din created by members from Seemandhra region who were protesting against division of Andhra Pradesh to create Telangana state.
The bill was already passed by the Lok Sabha in December 2011 but it came to the house again as it underwent amendments before being approved by the Rajya Sabha on Tuesday.
Samajwadi Party and Shiv Sena members, opposing the bill, staged a walk-out in protest, as their counterparts from other parties, including Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi and leader of the opposition Sushma Swaraj, supported the measure.
Gandhi sought extension of the winter session to pass six more bills which were "part of the comprehensive anti- corruption framework" of the UPA government.
"Lokpal Bill alone is not enough to fight corruption. What we need is a comprehensive anti-corruption code. The UPA government has prepared anti-corruption framework.
"Eight new central laws have been brought...We should complete the unfinished work of fighting corruption...Six anti-corruption bills are pending. If necessary, can we not extend this session of Parliament," Gandhi said as the debate began on the key bill to create an anti-graft ombudsman.
Noting that Lokpal Bill was part of this comprehensive framework, he said the RTI law was the first on the UPA list. The others which remain pending are Prevention of Corruption amendment, right to citizens for time-bound delivery of goods and services, public procurement, foreign bribery, judicial accountability and the whistleblowers bills, Gandhi said.
Swaraj supported the measure but attacked the Congress for clamouring to take credit for it, saying "the people of this country and the old man (Anna Hazare) who has undertaken fast several times deserve the credit."
Earlier, Speaker Meira Kumar allowed the bill, as amended by the Upper House, to be laid and taken up for consideration by Lok Sabha.
Anna Hazare breaks fast, cold-shoulders AAP
Anna Hazare on Wednesday broke his nine-day fast shortly after Lok Sabha passed the Lokpal Bill, and announced he would form "watchdog bodies" comprising people of "impeccable integrity" to keep an eye on how the law is enforced.
Looking a bit frail yet brimming with enthusiasm after the landmark bill was passed by the Lok Sabha, Hazare thanked all parties, barring Samajwadi Party, for their support, but obliquely criticised his former proteges in the Aaam Aadmi Party, his fellow travellers in the Jan Lokpal movement, who have dubbed the new legislation as "Jokepal" bill.
Hazare, who had been crusading for anti-corruption ombudsman for long and had forced passage of the bill in the Lok Sabha in 2011 through his fast at Ramlila Maidan, hoped the bill is signed into a law within 1-2 months.
The 76-year-old Gandhian, however, said mere enactment of the law would not serve the purpose and announced he would form "watchdog bodies" in states and districts to keep an eye on how the law was being enforced.
"The law will be meaningless unless it is implemented and enforced properly. I will constitute watchdog bodies at all levels...in states, districts everywhere.
"These bodies having retired judges, state police chiefs and others with impeccable integrity will keep vigilance on how the law is implemented. Only then the people will benefit from this law," he said.
Hazare, who thanked everybody, from MPs to political parties, Rajya Sabha's select committee, to policemen at his fast venue, the 'pandalwala' to the doctors who looked after him during the hunger strike, his fourth for Lokpal, chose not to make any mention of Arvind Kejriwal and others from the AAP, who played a role in building the movement.