Lokpal Bill tabled in Rajya Sabha, din blocks debate

    By IANS,

    New Delhi : Amid uproar over price rise by Samajwadi Party (SP) members, Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office V. Narayanasamy Friday tabled the Lokpal Bill, but debate on the proposed legislation could not be taken up.

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    The bill, which seeks to provide for establishment of the institution of an ombudsman to inquire into allegations of corruption against certain public functionaries, was tabled in the upper house when it met at 12 noon, after a last-minute decision by the government.

    Indications were given Thursday that the bill would be tabled and debated in the Rajya Sabha Monday.

    While the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the main opposition party, pledged its support to the bill, debate could not initiated in the upper house amidst noisy protest by the SP members on price rise. Telugu Desam Party members also joined the ruckus, raising “Save Andhra Pradesh” slogans.

    The Rajya Sabha was adjourned soon after the Lokpal Bill was tabled at noon, and met again at 2.30 p.m.

    SP leader Naresh Agarwal said price rise was a more important issue than corruption and it should be taken up.

    “It is the issue of the common man,” said Agarwal.

    While Deputy Chairman P.J. Kurien said the discussion could be taken up after the legislative business, the SP members again trooped near the chairman’s podium raising slogans against price rise and the ruling Congress.

    The house was then adjourned till 3.30 p.m. Scenes remained similar at 3.30 p.m. also even as Kurien threatened the protesting SP and TDP members he would take “strict action” against them.

    The members, however, refused to relent, and the house was adjourned for the day even as Narayanasamy, who was reading out from the bill, urged the chair not to adjourn the house.

    Members from the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) slammed the government for staging a drama and said they were able to hear the minister clearly on their headphones.

    “We could hear everything. Why did they adjourn the house?” CPI-M’s member Balgopal said.

    The opposition BJP called it a “friendly match” between the ruling congress and its supporting parties.

    “The whole nation is watching. It is a friendly match between the Congress and its supporting parties which is not allowing the house to function,” BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad said.

    “Congress should manage its supporting parties,” he said.

    The BJP offered to pass the bill in the din without debate if it was tabled as amended by the select committee of the Rajya Sabha. However, sources say Chairman M. Hamid Ansari rejected the idea and insisted it could not be passed without debate.

    Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath said the fact that government brought the bill showed its commitment.

    “The very fact that we brought this bill shows our resolve. I listed it in the number one position today (Friday). We even decided to forsake passing of the financial bills today in the Rajya Sabha and give it the highest priority,” Kamal Nath told reporters.

    The most prominent of the group of anti-graft bills on the anvil, the Lokpal bill seeks to establish an ombudsman Lokpal at the central level and asks states to set up Lokayuktas.

    The bill was passed by the Lok Sabha at the fag end of the 2012 winter session.

    A select committee of the Rajya Sabha, however, suggested changes in the bill which were incorporated and approved by the cabinet. It will now be presented to the Rajya Sabha and once approved by the upper house, it will have to be sent again to the Lok Sabha for its approval of the changes.