Rajya Sabha refers Anti-Corruption Bill to Select Committee

New Delhi: In the wake of objections by some members, Rajya Sabha on Friday referred to a Select Committee a bill to amend the Anti-Corruption Act of 1988 which provides for enhancing penalty for graft to a maximum of seven years from the present five years.

The 23-member Committee has been asked to present the report by the last day of the first week of next session of Parliament. It will be headed by Anil Madhav Dhave of BJP.

The Bill was introduced in the House on December 1 and it was moved for consideration on December 3 when members raised objections over certain clauses in it, arguing that these overlap with the provisions of the Lokpal Act and more clarity was needed on these.

A resolution to refer the bill to the Committee was moved by Minister for Personnel Jitendra Singh and it was adopted by voice vote.

The panel will also include Chandran Mitra, Bhupendra Yadav (BJP), Mani Shankar Aiyar, Shantakumar Naik, Bhubaneswar Kalita (of Cong), Naresh Agarwal, K C Tyagi (of SP), Sukhendu Shekhar Roy (TMC), Navneet Krisnha (AIADMK), Satish Mishra (BSP), K N Balagopal, Praful Patel, Sanjay Rawat, D Raja, Ramdas Athawal and Rajeev Chandrasekhar.

The Bill, pending before the Rajya Sabha for long, provides for more stringent punishment for the offences of bribery, both for the bribe giver and the bribe taker by amending the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988. It seeks to enhance penalty for graft to a maximum of seven years from five years now, among other new provisions to check the menace.

When the bill was moved in the House on December 3, Opposition parties including Congress and Samajwadi Party had advocated caution on the measure saying the new law, instead of checking the menace, will increase corruption and make elected representatives more vulnerable.

Soon after the discussion began on December 7, Naresh Agrawal of Samajwadi Party said powers vested by amendments, which the government wants to bring in the bill, have already been given to Lokpal by the Supreme Court.

"So what is the relevance of passing this bill when everything will be decided by Lokpal. Refer this bill to a Select Committee," he had said.

Madhusudan Mistry (Congress) then had told the Chair that eight or nine members of Rajya Sabha have already moved a petition seeking sending of the bill to a Select Committee.

Sensing the mood of the House, government had then agreed to the demand.

The Union Cabinet had on April 29 approved official amendments to the Act, providing for more stringent punishment for bribery - both for the bribe giver and the bribe taker.

The Amendment provides for speedy disposal of corruption- related cases by providing that trial be completed with 2 years. It proposes to extend the protection of prior sanction from prosecution to public servants who cease to hold office after retirement or resignation.

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