NEW DELHI, Dec 17 — In an atmosphere of rare political consensus, the Rajya Sabha or Upper House of Indian Parliament on Tuesday passed a historic Jan Lokpal Bill (Citizen’s Ombudsman Bill) which provides for creation of national ombudsman to investigate corruption charges against public functionaries.
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh termed the passage of the bill as a “landmark step” and thanked all those who supported its passage.
The bill will be debated in Lok Sabha or Lower House of Indian Parliament tomorrow where it is likely to be passed thus steering way for its enactment.
All major political parties with the exception of regional Samajwadi Party, which walked out in protest against the legislation, took part in five-hour long debate and hoped that the proposed bill will be passed in the lower house of parliament in the ongoing winter session of Parliament which ends on December 20.
Kapil Sibal, India’s law minister, said all parties rose above politics to pass a bill that “people wanted”.
Sibal stressed that corruption cannot be eradicated by law alone.
“Law alone will not lead to elimination of corruption. Law will help deal with those who are corrupt, but it will not deal with the impetus to be corrupt. It will just be a deterrent,” he said.
He also said the government will also deal with the “supply side” of corruption, the “source of bribe” as a proposed amendment bill to the existing Prevention of Corruption Act is already pending in the lower house.
In December 2011, the proposed anti-graft bill was cleared by the lower house but the upper house stalled its passage thus sending it to a parliamentary committee for review. The reviewed bill was today passed by the upper house.
The demand for a stronger anti-corruption law against public functionaries was part of a massive public movement across the country which started in 2011 under the leadership of social activist and Gandhian anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare.
76-year old Hazare, who has been on an indefinite fast for passage of the anti-corruption bill in his native village Ralegan Siddhi in Western state of Maharashtra, thanked all political parties for passage of the bill.
Hazare’s health deteriorated as his fast entered 7th day but he refused to break it.
“I will break my fast only when the anti-corruption bill becomes law,” he told reporters.