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Explain stand on lokayuktas, panel tells government

The lokpal panel has asked the government to clarify its stand on whether Parliament has the power to pass a law making it mandatory for the states to set up anti-graft watchdogs — the lokayuktas — through a single bill.

delhi Updated: Oct 23, 2012 01:23 IST
Nagendar Sharma

The lokpal panel has asked the government to clarify its stand on whether Parliament has the power to pass a law making it mandatory for the states to set up anti-graft watchdogs — the lokayuktas — through a single bill.

The select committee of the Rajya Sabha, which is examining the anti-graft lokpal and lokayuktas bill, has asked the law ministry to make its stand clear on the issue because objections were raised after the Lok Sabha passed the bill on December 27, 2011. The panel wants clarity on whether Parliament has the “legislative competence” to pass a law, which will be mandatory for states to implement since India is a signatory to the United Nations Convention against Corruption.

The bill, passed by the Lok Sabha, states “it is expedient to enact a law for more effective implementation of the UN Convention and to provide for prompt and fair probe and prosecution in cases of corruption.”

The government relied on Article 253 of the Constitution, which states: “Parliament has the power to make any law for the whole of India for implementing any treaty, agreement or convention with any other country or countries.”

Though the bill was passed in the Lok Sabha, it hit a wall in the Rajya Sabha — where a majority of the parties wanted the government to leave the option of setting up lokayuktas to the states. Finally, the bill was referred to a committee.

Interestingly, in its presentation before the panel, the law ministry, which had vetted the original bill, has agreed with the Opposition that the bill should be amended, since making a law in accordance with Article 253 may not be in “accordance with the constitutional scheme”.

It has also cautioned against the amendment moved by minister of state V Narayanasamy in the Rajya Sabha on May 22 that “maximum flexibility” be provided to states for setting up lokayuktas.