New Delhi: In yet another twist, the controversial Lokpal and Lokayuktas Bill was on Monday referred to the Select Committee of Rajya Sabha, further delaying the setting up of the anti-graft ombudsman which has been hanging fire for 42 years.

The Bill, on which debate had remained inconclusive in the Rajya Sabha during the last Winter Session, was referred to the Select Committee through a motion soon after Minister of State for Personnel V Narayanasamy moved it for consideration and passage.

Interestingly, the motion for referring the bill to the Select Committee was moved initially by Samajwadi Party member Naresh Agrawal.

This was strongly objected to by BJP, Left parties and BSP, with their members arguing that only the minister concerned could move such a motion and accusing the ruling coalition of "using the shoulder" of "friendly opposition" party.

After high drama marked by arguments and counter-arguments over whether rules permitted any other member to move such a motion, the government yielded and the motion was moved by Narayanasamy which was immediately passed by voice vote.

He said the 15-member committee would have to submit its report by the first day of the last week of Monsoon Session. While moving the bill, the Minister said differences on it had been narrowed down after consultations with various parties.

He said the government proposed to bring lower bureaucracy under the purview of Lokpal which will have investigating and prosecution wing. Besides, CVC will monitor investigations by the CBI referred to it by the Lokpal.

There will be provisions for attachment of properties and time-frame for investigations.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was witness to the high drama ahead of the Bill being referred to the Select Committee of the Upper House.

Questioning the sincerity of the government, Leader of Opposition Arun Jaitley said, "I urge the Prime Minister and the Government to be upfront and forthright and say do we want a Lokpal or we don't."

He also questioned the Government's intentions in bringing the Bill a day before the Session ends, even when it had enough time to consult the opposition. "We have given our views formally at the all-party meeting and even informally," he said.

Saying "the credibility of Parliamentary institution now is at stake", Jaitley said the whole nation was looking at them. "We want and the country wants that the government comes out clearly on this issue".

The government also came under sharp attack from BSP, with Mayawati agreeing with the Leader of Opposition on the government's intention and asked it to come out with a proper proposal for passing the Bill.

"This is your weakness and you are shirking your responsibility," she said, despite expressing commitment for the Bill it was delaying it on one pretext or the other.

She said the Bill must be not passed in haste and be done only after proper discussion with all parties.

Sitaram Yechury (CPI-M) also questioned the amendment motion to send the Bill to Select Committee coming from a Samajwadi Party member instead of the Minister incharge.

Yechury, however, asked the Government to include private corporates under the purview of Lokpal saying, "You are not putting a check on demand side of corruption and are not putting a check on the supply side of corruption."

During the heated debate over the issue, RJD whose member was instrumental in stalling passage of the Bill in the last Winter Session by a tearing its copy, questioned the need for having a Lokpal.

Ramkripal Yadav and Prem Chand Gupta (both RJD) felt left out as no member from smaller parties like RJD found a place in the proposed 15-member Select Committee to which the Bill has been referred.

The members of the Select Committee proposed by the government are Shantaram Naik, Satyavrat Chaturvedi, Shadi Lal Batra (all Cong), Arun Jaitley, Rajiv Pratap Rudy, Bhupendra Yadav (all BJP), K N Balagopal (CPI-M), Shivanand Tiwari (JD-U), Tiruchi Shiva (DMK), Satish Mishra (BSP), D Bandyopadhyay (TMC), Ramgopal Yadav (SP), D P Tripathi (NCP), V Maitreyan (AIADMK) and A K Ganguly (Nom).

Incidentally, the names of members suggested by the Government were the same as those proposed by Samajwadi Party member Naresh Agrawal.

The heated discussion also saw P J Kurien, who was in the Chair, losing his cool when Maya Singh (BJP) pointed fingers at the Chair saying the Chair and the ruling party together scuttled the Lokpal Bill. "The Chair has not justice to us this time also," she said.

Kurien reacted sharply at this, saying he did not bend rules. "I have always allowed members to speak after the Minister's reply...Therefore to allege like that, it is unfair...This kind of allegation is not right."

TDP and AGP members also raised objections on SP moving the amendment and proposing names of Select Committee members.

Members also raised serious questions on whether any member can bring a motion under the rules, as moved by Agrawal. Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal and Kurien pointed out that any member can do so, but opposition members insisted that it can be done through an amendment.

"Where is the amendment ? Without a motion, you are talking of an amendment...Let Agrawal move an amendment," Yechury said.

Yechury said his party had no objection if the Government wanted to send the Bill to a Select Committee. "If Government wants to send it to Select Committee, we have no objections. But Rules are clear...Where is motion for sending it to a Select Committee... Let the government move a motion for sending it to Select Committee."

Jaitley earlier took potshots at the government asking it to be "upfront" and "forthright" in declaring whether it wants the Bill instead of indulging in "these kinds of games like that on December 29 and today."

"It does not need a friendly opposition on whose shoulders it would consider a proposal," he said.

Noting that the credibility of Parliamentary institution was at stake, Jaitley said, "This debate started in 1960s. The Bill came in another shape in 1990s. We kept debating the Bill. We almost came close to passing it in December last year... but disturbances were caused" and the House was adjourned abruptly.

He said even now the Bill cannot be considered as it was without a resolution from two states on the Lokayukta issue. He hit out at the Government for taking the plea that it was deferred last time in the absence of time to take up 197 amendments.

"It is very easy for Government to say that 197 amendments were there. They were largely under four heads...if a vote would have been considered, perhaps some of them would have gone through...," he said.

On December 29, the last day of Winter Session, the House was abruptly adjourned at the stroke of midnight on technical reasons and debate remained inconclusive.

Earlier there was drama in the House on whether the rules permitted a member from bringing in a motion. There was heated discussion over Samajwadi Party bringing in the amendment in the Bill for sending it to the Select Committee.

As Rajiv Pratap Rudy and Ravi Shankar Prasad (both BJP) and others raised strong objections over Agrawal moving the amendment, Kurien and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal defended the government saying no Parliamentary rules have been violated.

GOVT DROPS CLAUSE

Government has removed a clause in the Lokpal Bill which allowed any citizen to move for the removal of the anti-corruption ombudsman.

According to another official amendment circulated by the government in the Rajya Sabha, the Lokpal Bill will be applicable to a state only upon passing a resolution by the state legislature.

Instead of adopting the resolution, the state legislature can also enact a law keeping the Lokayukta provision in the Lokpal and

Lokayukta Bill as a model resolution, said the amendments moved by Minister of State for Personnel V Narayanasamy.

The bill in its earlier form made it necessary for states to create a Lokayukta on the lines of Lokpal at the Centre.

Now, only MP can move for removal of a member or the head of the Lokpal panel.

Two clauses in the Bill, moved in the Rajya Sabha during the last winter session which allowed the President or any citizen to move for their removal, have now been dropped.

According to the amendment, the move for removal can be made only through a petition signed by not less than 100 MPs.

"...Supreme Court, on a reference being made to it by the President on a petition signed by at least one hundred Members of Parliament," read the amendment to Clause 37.

(Agencies)

Latest news on India News Desk