Parliament clears anti-corruption law through Lokpal Bill

The lower house of Indian parliament Lok Sabha cleared the anti-corruption law enshrined under Lokpal Bill on Wednesday, one day after the upper house Rajya Sabha passed the much debated bill. This comes around two years of a mass public protest in support of a call for strong anti-corruption law in the by Gandhian social activist Anna Hazare. The social activist broke fast in after Lok Sabha cleared the law. 

Hazare had resumed his hunger strike early this month to press on the government to clear the bill which seeks to bring all public servants under its ambit including the head of the executive the prime minister.

The movement started by Hazare saw a split sometime back with a faction led by former bureaucrat Arvind Kejriwal moving on to form a political organisation under the aegis of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). AAP contested in its maiden elections in the recently concluded ballot in Delhi and emerged as a surprise no: 2 party in the state just short of the majority mark.

Interestingly, while Hazare had supported with the final proposals included in the Lokpal Bill, AAP had said it is a diluted form of what it had asked for through a Jan Lokpal Bill. Some key differences between the two include: exclusion of judiciary from its ambit, absence of a whistleblower protection policy, citizen charter for prosecuting officials who fail to do their duty, appointment and removal of Lokpal members. Here’s a snapshot from the Lokpal Bill which has now been passed:

  • Lokpal at the Centre and Lokayukta at the level of the states.
  • The Lokpal will consist of a chairperson and a maximum of eight members, of which 50 per cent shall be judicial members.
  • Half of the members of Lokpal shall be from amongst SC/ST/OBCs, minorities and women.
  • The selection of chairperson and members of Lokpal shall be through a Selection Committee consisting of prime minister, speaker of Lok Sabha, leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha,  chief justice of India or a sitting Supreme Court judge nominated by CJI, eminent jurist to be nominated by the president on the basis of recommendations of the first four members of the Selection Committee.
  • Prime minister has been brought under the purview of the Lokpal.
  • Lokpal’s jurisdiction will cover all categories of public servants.
  • All entities receiving donations from foreign source in the context of the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) in excess of Rs 10 lakh per year are brought under the jurisdiction of Lokpal.
  • Lokpal will have power of superintendence and direction over any investigation agency including CBI for cases referred to them by Lokpal.
  • A high powered Committee chaired by the prime minister will recommend selection of the director, CBI and the appointment of the director of prosecution would be based on the recommendation of the Central Vigilance Commission.
  • Transfer of officers of CBI investigating cases referred by Lokpal with the approval of Lokpal.
  • Provisions for attachment and confiscation of property acquired by corrupt means, even while prosecution is pending.
  • Time lines for preliminary enquiry and investigation and trial and setting up of Special Courts towards this end.

A mandate for setting up of the institution of Lokayukta through enactment of a law by the State Legislature within 365 days from the date of commencement of the Act.

(Edited by Joby Puthuparampil Johnson)

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