Anti-corruption bill sent to select committee

The Prevention of Corruption (Amendment) Bill 2013 was referred to a select committee Monday after members in the Rajya Sabha wanted more clarity on some provisions that overlap with provisions of the Lokpal Act.

By amending the Prevention of Corruption Act 1988, the bill provides for stronger punishment for bribery, both to the bribe giver and to the bribe taker. It seeks to increase the maximum penalty in a corruption case from five years to seven.

When the bill was taken up for consideration in Rajya Sabha Monday, Naresh Agrawal of the Samajwadi Party said the amendments being brought in the Bill vest powers that have already been vested in the Lokpal by the Supreme Court. “When Lokpal is going to decide everything, why should we discuss this? Please send it to the select committee,” Agrawal said. “My party is not in agreement with the Lokpal, as this will create a parallel system,” he added.

Responding to the suggestion, Minister of State in the PMO Jitendra Singh said since the scope of the discussions on the Bill over the past few days had expanded to a grey area concerning the authority of the Lokpal and that of Parliament, the government had “an open mind” but “we do not wish to appear to be shirking away from giving powers to Lokpal”.

Derek O’Brien of the Trinamool Congress said, “The sense of the House is to send it to a select committee.” Madhusudan Mistry of the Congress added that eight or nine members had already moved a petition seeking that the bill be referred to a Select Committee.

If the bill is going to be referred to a select committee, then it should be taken up for discussion only after the committee gives its report, Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi agreed.