Lokpal bill tabled, Anna fumes
The government today tabled its version of the lokpal in Parliament, immediately sparking protests from the Bhartiya Janata Party and supporters of social activist Anna Hazare.delhi Updated: Aug 04, 2011 21:25 IST
The government on Thursday tabled its version of the lokpal in Parliament, immediately sparking protests from the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) and supporters of social activist Anna Hazare.
BJP MP Sushma Swaraj, leader of opposition, demanded in the Lok Sabha that the Prime Minister should come under the purview of the lokpal. Hazare's supporters burnt copies of the government's bill and called it "useless".
Just before introduction of the bill, speaker Meira Kumar gave permission to leader of the opposition Sushma Swaraj to express her views as a special case under Rule 72.
Swaraj said when the Prime Minister does not enjoy immunity from prosecution under the criminal law and Prevention of Corruption Act, why is he being kept out of the ambit of the lokpal.
She maintained that as per the Constitution, everybody was equal and there is no immunity from IPC, CrPC or the Prevention of Corruption Act.
"It is for the first time that under Clause 2 of the lokpal bill, all Union ministers are included except the Prime Minister. I don't understand why. How can anybody occupying any position be a holy cow. Why is the Prime Minister being kept out of its purview?" Swaraj posed.
She stated that then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had put the debate to rest during NDA rule by saying that if he is not under its purview it will have no meaning. She was referring to the lokpal bill proposed by the NDA government which was ultimately not introduced in Parliament.
"As chairperson of the then Standing Committee on Home, Pranab Mukherjee had accepted that the Prime Minister should be within the purview of the lokpal. The Prime Minister (Manmohan Singh) has himself said he wants to be within its ambit. Why is the cabinet not paying heed to his views?" she asked.
As government introduced the lokpal bill in Parliament, Anna Hazare and his team members today burnt copies of the "anti-poor, anti-Dalit" law with the Gandhian asserting that he would go ahead with his fast beginning August 16 till a strong law is brought in.
Hazare and his supporters burnt copies of the Bill introduced in Parliament this afternoon in Maharashtra's Ralegaon Siddhi while his supporters Arvind Kejriwal, Prashant Bhushan and Kiran Bedi led the protest in Uttar Pradesh's Kaushambi area in Ghaziabad.
Amidst sloganeering against government, Hazare said it was the last chance to eradicate corruption from the country and that the protest should be organised all over to ensure that a strong lokpal bill is brought in.
"This is a bad and weak Bill which is introduced in Parliament. We need a new and strong Bill. I trusted them when they said they will bring a strong law and ended my fast in April. They cheated me.
"But at the protest starting from August 16, I am not going to withdraw from my fast on some assurances. What we need is a strong bill," he said.
He claimed the government would have fallen if he had continued his fast then for another three days. The government does not fear fast or protests but they fear the voice of people, he said, adding that people should acquire this power to overthrow governments.
However, he said, his protest is not to change the government but system.
Alleging that it was an insult to Parliament and people, Kejriwal described the bill as "anti-poor and anti-Dalit" which does not help the poor in fighting corruption.
By bringing a "weak" lokpal bill, Kejriwal alleged the government was challenging the countrymen.
He said they expected the government will come out with a stronger version of the bill but they were cheated.
Countering suggestions that the bill can be further debated in the Standing Committee, Kejriwal said the panel cannot alter or change the provisions as it can only give suggestions.
"Parliament has been given a fait accompli. This is insult of the people and Parliament," he added.
Bhushan and Bedi said what they were demanding was an independent agency which could probe corruption.
with agency inputs