Anna Hazare Tuesday started a three-day fast for a strong Lokpal, while Prime Minister Manmohan Singh defended the government’s proposed ombudsman following an opposition onslaught.
As MPs furiously debated the pros and cons of the Lokpal bill in the Lok Sabha, Team Anna urged Parliament to dump the proposed legislation, saying it was too weak to combat the cancer of corruption.
Intervening, the prime minister insisted that the bill lives up to the promise MPs “collectively made to the people of the country” with a ‘sense of house’ resolution in August when Hazare fasted in Delhi.
The Jan Lokpal Bill (also referred to as the citizens’ ombudsman bill) is a proposed anti-corruption law in India. It is designed to effectively deter corruption, redress grievances and protect whistle-blowers. If passed and made into law, the bill seeks to create an ombudsman called the Lokpal (translation: protector of the people) – an independent body similar to the Election Commission of India with the power to investigate politicians and bureaucrats without prior government permission.
First introduced in 1969, the bill has failed to become law for nearly over four decades.
SGandhian rights activist Anna Hazare started a Satyagraha movement by commencing a fast unto death in New Delhi to demand the passing of the bill. The movement attracted attention in the media, and thousands of supporters. Following Hazare’s four day hunger strike, the Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh stated that the bill would be re-introduced in the 2011 monsoon session of the Parliament.
Attempts to draft a compromise bill, merging the Government’s version and that of the civil group’s version (Jan Lokpal), by a committee of five Cabinet Ministers and five social activists failed. The Indian government introduced its own version of the bill in the parliament, which the activists consider to be too weak.
Major dfference between Draft Lokpal Bill 2010 and Jan Lokpal Bill
|Draft Lokpal Bill (2010)
||Jan Lokpal Bill (Citizen’s Ombudsman Bill)
|Lokpal does not have powers to investigate the prime minister.
||Lokpal will have the powers to investigate the prime minister.
|Lokpal can only probe complaints approved by the Speaker of the Lok Sabha or the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha.
||Lokpal will have powers to initiate suo moto action or receive complaints of corruption from any citizen if it deems it worthy.
|Lokpal will only be an Advisory Body with a role limited to forwarding reports to a “Competent Authority”.
||Lokpal will have the power to initiate prosecution of anyone found guilty.
|Lokpal will have no police powers and no ability to register a First Information Report or proceed with criminal investigations.
||Lokpal will have police powers as well as the ability to register FIRs.
|The CBI and Lokpal will be unconnected.
||Lokpal and the anti corruption wing of the CBI will be one independent body.
|Punishment for corruption will be a minimum of 6 months and a maximum of up to 7 years.
||Punishments will be a minimum of 10 years and a maximum of up to life imprisonment.
Detailed comparative chart for the Government lokpal Bill and Jan Lokpal Bill can be viewed and downloaded from here.
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The civil society representatives and the Government were able to settle some disputes on Monday, but new differences have emerged ahead of the final Lokpal Bill Drafting Committee meeting on Tuesday.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has called for a meeting of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA), ahead of the all-party meet on the Lokpal issue. The Union ministers on the Lokpal Bill drafting committee will be meeting Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee.
The Government has clarified that only one Lokpal Draft Bill will be sent on to the Cabinet, and both sides have admitted that crucial differences still remain and a consensus is unlikely ahead of Tuesday’s final Lokpal meet.
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