'Why is the Cabinet not agreeing with the PM'
The much-debated Lokpal Bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha on Thursday amid objections from the Bharatiya Janata Party and its allies of the National Democratic Alliance over the exclusion of the prime minister from the purview of the proposed legislation.
Just before the introduction of the bill, Speaker Meira Kumar gave permission to Leader of the Opposition Sushma Swaraj to express her views as a special case under Rule 72.
Swaraj said when the prime minister does not enjoy immunity from prosecution under the criminal law and the Prevention of Corruption Act, why was he being kept out of the ambit of the Lokpal.
Image: Sushma Swaraj
'Why is the prime minister being kept out'
She maintained that as per the Constitution, everybody was equal and there was no immunity from the Indian Penal Code, the Criminal Procedure Code or the Prevention of Corruption Act.
"It is for the first time that under Clause 2 of the Lokpal Bill, all Union ministers have been included except the prime minister. I don't understand why. How can anybody occupying any position be a holy cow? Why is the prime minister being kept out of its purview," Swaraj queried.
She stated that then prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had put the debate to rest during the NDA's rule by stating that if he was not under its purview, it will have no meaning.
Image: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh
'We will object to the introduction of Lokpal Bill'
She was referring to the Lokpal Bill proposed by the NDA government which was ultimately not introduced in Parliament.
"As chairperson of the then Standing Committee on Home, Pranab Mukherjee had accepted that the prime minister should be within the purview of the Lokpal. The prime minister (Manmohan Singh) has himself said he wants to be within its ambit. Why is the Cabinet not paying heed to his views," she asked.
Swaraj said the BJP had several objections to the proposed Bill but would, for the moment, focus on the exclusion of the PM.
"We will object to the introduction of the Lokpal Bill," she said.
Image: A rally against corruption
'Your objection cannot be sustained'
NDA Convenor and Janata Dal - United President Sharad Yadav also stood up to say something but the Speaker did not permit him to express his views as he had not given a prior notice.
Minister of State in the Prime Minister's Office V Narayanasamy, who introduced the bill, said the prime minister had offered to be within the purview of the Lokpal but the Cabinet did not agree.
"Ultimately this bill will go to the Standing Committee. Your objection cannot be sustained," he told the Opposition benches.
'Why didn't the NDA bring the Bill'
Mukherjee told the House that Swaraj's contention that he gave his nod to the NDA's Lokpal Bill is true.
"On February 16, 2002, as chairperson of the Standing Committee on Home, I had placed that bill on the table of the House. NDA had two full years after that. Why did they not bring the bill," Mukherjee asked.
When Narayanasamy introduced the Bill, the BJP and NDA members objected to it.
Earlier, in his reply to the motion on price rise, Mukherjee said the government has taken the views of the civil society but "there was no question of diluting the authority of Parliament in making the legislation."
He said that in the case of the Lokpal Bill, normal legislative process will be followed.
Image: Pranab Mukherjee