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New Delhi: Moving a step further towards enactment of a historic law for setting up Lokpal, government on Thursday tabled a bill to this effect in the Rajya Sabha, but it was rejected by the Opposition as "constitutionally vulnerable".
    
The Lokpal and Lokayuktas Bill, 2011, already passed by Lok Sabha, was moved for consideration by Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs V Narayanasamy amid questions over its passage in view of stiff opposition by various parties, including UPA ally Trinamool Congress. The UPA does not enjoy a majority in the Upper House.
    
Pushing for passage of the crucial bill, Narayanasamy said it "is in line with the sense of the House" expressed on August 27.
    
Initiating the debate, Leader of Opposition Arun Jaitley slammed the bill saying it would lead to "constitutional havoc" as the Centre would be encouraged to "usurp" rights of states through the provision of setting up of Lokayuktas.
    
The BJP leader and noted lawyer also opposed minority quota in the Lokpal bench, inclusion of NGOs and keeping CBI out of the purview of the ombudsman.
    
"If you are creating history, let us not create bad history. We will be leaving a lot of task for the next generation to do," he said.
    
He made it clear the BJP would not support the Bill in the present form. "Please accept amendments that the colleagues have moved," he said.
    
Abhishek M Singhvi (Cong) rejected Jaitley's contentions, saying said the BJP was creating fear psychosis over the issue of NGOs under the purview of the ombudsman.

Seeking to drive a wedge between the UPA coalition partners, Jaitley encouraged Trinamool Congress by saying that its opposition to various provisions of the bill was correct.
    
Holding that one does not have to demolish federalism in the fight against corruption, he said, "That is why the Trinamool Congress is right."
    
BSP member S C Mishra also criticised the bill for keeping CBI under government control and said the agency is used to settle political scores. He claimed that cases against Uttar
Pradesh Chief Minister and BSP supremo Mayawati were an example of such misuse.
    
Mishra appeared to attack Rahul Gandhi when he said that a Congress leader goes to Uttar Pradesh and says that "we (Centre) have sent money...Is it your (Centre's) property? It is our money."
    
He said the reservation for minorities in the Lokpal bench and search committee was done under pressure as the Congress treats minorities only as "vote-minting machine".
    
Amidst protest from Congress members, he said it was a "day of misery" for the ruling dispensation and counseled them to listen patiently to the criticism.
    
During the debate, which saw exchange of barbs between Jaitley and Singhvi, the Congress member rejected opposition's stand on reservation, saying the bill does not have any provision for quota and only talks about ensuring representation from diverse sections of the society.
    
He accused the BJP of giving an "advanced premature certificate of unconstitutionality".
    
He said the Lokpal bill does not cover all private trusts but only those, which receive public donations above a certain amount. Strongly batting for constitutional status to Lokpal, Singhvi attacked BJP saying it was opposing the bill only for the sake of it.
    
He told Jaitley that his argument that the bill was a constitutional cocktail does not have any punch.
    
Rejecting charges of assault on federalism, the Congress MP said Parliament has the power to make laws for whole of the country or for any part.
    
He said the bill for the first time separates prosecution and investigative powers, abolishes the practice of seeking sanctions before prosecution of public servants and gives Lokpal greater control of CBI even though it does not bring the agency directly under the Lokpal.
    
Holding that Government's approach is that of favouring mutual checks and balances, Singhvi said it wanted to maintain equilibrium of the holy trinity of the legislature, the executive and the judiciary.
    
Asking the Opposition to be honest in its conviction, the he accused it of using conditionalities and excuses to avoid supporting the bill.
    
Criticising the Opposition's suggestions on Lokpal, Singhvi said their idea is to create a behemoth before which even the Prime Minister and his office will look like "pygmies" and also create a breeding ground for "big ticket corruption".
    
He said BJP's opposition to the bill was just to score browny points with an eye on the forthcoming assembly polls.
    
The Congress leader vehemently denied that the bill marks any deviation from the sense of the House on Lokpal issue to which the government had agreed in the Monsoon Session.
    
Urging the Opposition to support the government on the issue, he said "history will not forgive you (Opposition)" if they do not support the bill.
    
Singhvi said a slew of anti-corruption legislations have been made during the UPA regime.

Jaitley earlier said the investigation mechanism proposed in the bill is such that a probe can never be completed.
    
"Criminal investigations are never done in a round-robin (manner)," he said, adding that Opposition's demand was just to make CBI an impartial investigating agency.
    
He said Chairman of Lokpal should be included in the panel to select CBI director.
    
The Opposition Leader said the government has deliberately brought a law which is constitutionally vulnerable.
    
"You want to kill the Lokpal when it is still in the womb ...lets not create a bad history," Jaitley said adding the amendments proposed by Opposition would remove the deficiencies in the bill.
    
"We will pass a Lokpal, (but) not your (government) Lokpal," he said.
    
Seeking a relook and rethink on the bill, S C Mishra (BSP) said it is "totally illegal" and a "fraud" on the Constitution and will be struck down by the court. "We should not make laws under pressure," he said.
    
Rejecting Singhvi's contention that Centre can enact laws under Rule 253, which can be applicable to the whole country or in parts to cater to international treaties like the UN convention, Mishra wondered whether the government wants to control all state subjects through this provision.
    
"It will completely ruin the federal structure", he said wondering whether the Centre was planning to clamp emergency in the country.
    
Sitaram Yechury (CPI-M) said the spirit of the Constitution must be kept in mind while framing the law and added that the government should accept the amendments to make a stronger Lokpal Bill. S C Mishra (BSP) said through the Bill, the Government wants to take away the legislative power of state governments and said the Centre could do so only if emergency was imposed in all the states.
    
"The Centre should tell us if they are going to do so," he said.
    
He alleged that the Congress "deliberately and intentionally" did not want a strong Lokpal and that is why created such a law which is "unconstitutional" and would be struck down by a court of law.
    
Mishra said the Government should not follow orders from somebody to frame laws as the bill seeking constitutional amendment has already been defeated in the Lok Sabha.
    
Yechury said his party has four major objections to the bill including setting up of Lokayukta in states, investigation agency and inclusion of corporates and foreign-funded NGOs under the new proposed anti-corruption body.
    
When Minister of State in the PMO V Narayanasamy said the opposition leaders were saying different things in Parliament and at Anna Hazare's meeting, Yechury said his party did not believe in changing stances.
    
"We have not raised the issue of your ministers sitting in yoga posture with a saffron robed guru and you should not say such things," he said, in an apparent reference to Yoga Guru
Ramdev.     

Without naming Trinamool Congress, the CPI-M leader took a dig at the party saying that certain parties in the Government were now opposing some clauses of the bill. "It would have been better if they had taken up this in the Cabinet...this situation would not have arisen," he said.

Shivanand Tiwari (JD-U) termed the bill as "toothless" and said that it has been drafted in a hurry.
    
He also asked the government to take measures to stop inequality, which might help it to end corruption.
    
Supporting the bill, Tiruchi Siva (DMK) said absence of a strong legislation might be one of the reasons why corruption has taken deep roots in India.
    
"Transparency in every level could curtail corruption," he said, adding, his party would not allow any breach in the states' autonomy.
    
"I support the Bill on behalf of DMK. However, we need an explanation from the government. We are concerned to some extent. The Centre should not encroach upon or trespass into the territory of the states," Siva said.
    
Extending support to the bill, NCP, a constituent of UPA, appealed to the opposition to "rectify" the mistake it had committed in the Lok Sabha (by opposing it) and help pass it in the Upper House.
    
"The Lokpal Bill is well considered and will prove a milestone in combating corruption in the country," NCP member Tariq Anwar said, adding if any lacunae is found in future, amendments could be brought.
    
Opposing the bill, Pyarimohan Mohapatra (BJD) said it affects the federal structure of the democracy.
    
He questioned omission of CBI and Group C and D officials in the bill, which he said the government is claiming as a "strong law to fight corruption."
    
He said it seems the entire debate on Lokpal Bill is centered around assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh and it is forcing the parties to take a stand which is not necessarily based on merit.

Sukhendu Sekhar Roy (Trinamool) said despite being part of UPA government his party is opposing the Bill as it "threatens" the federal structure of the country.
    
"Our leader Mamata Banerjee has always said that whenever there is any violation of rights of state, we must oppose it tooth and nail," Roy said.
    
The TC member said his party demands that chapter III should be deleted as it threatens the federal character of democracy.
    
He, however, said TC is opposing the bill on merit and the party did not join the "jamboree outside" where 'Vaampanthi' (Left) and 'Rampanthi' (BJP-RSS) joined hands.
    
Ramgopal Yadav (SP) said his party was opposing the bill because it kept CBI out of it and also brought former MPs within its purview.
    
He said his party is in favour of including Leader of Opposition in the panel for selection of Lokpal.

D Raja (CPI) decried attempts being made by the civil society to "diminish position of Parliament."
    
"You are not the wisest people in the world," he said adding the Lokpal Bill falls short of being a strong measure.    

He said nothing should be done to subvert the federalism and sought extension of Lokpal's jurisdiction to board of private companies against whom complains of influencing central government or state government tenders is made.
    
Besides, NGOs accepting government grant should be brought under Lokpal, he said, adding CBI should be freed but "you cannot give absolute automony...CBI should be accountable to some authority."
    
V Maitreyan (AIADMK) said his party was for strong and effective Lokpal but opposed "serious assault on principal of federalism" through the provision of Lokayaukta in the bill.
    
AIADMK, he said, was against including of Prime Minister as well as Chief Ministers of states under Lokpal.
    
H K Dua (Nom) said by including the office of Prime Minister under the Lokpal, authority of Prime Minister has been compromised.
    
"Strong Lokpal and weak Prime Minister is not a desirable situation for a long time," he said.
    
Accusing Team Anna of being arrogant, he said honesty and patriotism is not anybody's monopoly.
    
If laws are allowed to be passed from Ramlila or Jantar Mantar road, tomorrow another group will make case for abolishing Parliament or judiciary.
    
"Don't give right to odd group to pass the law," he said Disapproving of the bill, Manohar Joshi (Shiv Sena) said Parliament should be supreme and above Lokpal.
    
Prime Minister should be brought under Lokpal with conditions but judiciary should be kept out at all times, he added.
    
Ram Jethmalani (BJP) said CBI should be brought under the jurisdiction of Lokpal. K Keshava Rao (Congress) told Trinamool Congress MPs that the Bill in no way "invaded" the rights of states.
    
"My friends in the Trinamool Congress have stated that rights of the states were being invaded. I have the bill, tell me where are the rights of the states being invaded," he said.
    
On the issue of CBI, he said the investigation agency was a police organisation and giving it complete independence would create a "police state" in the country.
    
Ramchandra Khuntia, also of Congress, said the BJP was in power for six years and it should have taken steps to set up the institution of Lokapl.
    
He said when the three pillars of Indian democracy were being brought under the purview of the Lokpal, media should also be brought under it.
    
Khuntia also felt that the Corporate houses should also be brought under its ambit.
    
Mohammed Adeeb, Ashok S Ganguly and Ahmad Saeed Malihabadi also took part in the debate.

(Agencies)