Monsoon Session Day 2: Govt attacked on corruption, black money as LS, RS pass bills on economic offenders, bribery
The Fugitive Economic Offenders Bill, which was earlier brought in as an Ordinance, was passed by the Lok Sabha, even as the Opposition questioned the government's sincerity in taking any action against them.
Barring a few snide remarks exchanged between the Treasury and Opposition benches, and a brief walkout by Congress leaders, the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha managed to pass bills of importance, debate on matters of public importance, and take up the Question Hour and Special Mentions on day two of Monsoon Session.
Opposition protests home minister's statement on lynching, raises slogans against Jayant Sinha
The day started off on a stormy note in Lok Sabha with Opposition members raising slogans against civil aviation minister Jayant Sinha for garlanding men convicted of lynching a meat trader in Jharkhand.
As soon as the minister rose to respond to a question on upgradation of airports during the Question Hour, Opposition members started raising slogans. They soon rushed to the Well demanding an apology from the minister. They raised slogans such as "stop garlanding convicts" as Sinha responded to the question. Sinha, however, continued to speak. Later, the members went back to their seats after Sinha concluded his response.
Sinha had sparked a controversy after pictures of him felicitating men convicted of lynching a meat trader in Jharkahand went viral on social media.
The issue resurfaced shortly afterwards, leading to Opposition members staging a walk-out from Lok Sabha as Union home minister Rajnath Singh sought to ascribe responsibility of rising mob violence with state governments.
Rajnath condemned the incidents but said that law and order was a state subject while adding that the Centre has advised the states to take stringent action against the culprits. He also blamed the phenomenon of fake news and said that the government has asked social media service providers to install checks to stop the spread of rumours and fake news.
Congress MP Shashi Tharoor later said that the remarks of the home minister were far from satisfactory.
Rajnath was responding to a to Congress leader KC Venugopal, who raised the issue in the Lower House, alleging that lynching and physical attacks on the people, including those with dissenting views, have become the order of the day. He also mentioned the episode of Sinha's association with the accused and went on to allege that the government was using investigating agencies to "target people".
Noisy scenes were witnessed during the discussion on the subject with some BJP members protesting Venugopal's speech, as Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge and Jyotiraditya Scindia were seen vociferously asking the Chair to allow the Congress MP to complete his submission, saying it was a serious matter concerning the nation.
Congress, BJP argued over Chidambaram, Tharoor
The controversy broke out after BJP MP Nishikant Dubey said in the Lok Sabha CBI was going to chargesheet a former finance minister in a criminal case involving fugitive economic offender Vijay Mallya. Kharge immediately questioned as to how was he aware of the impending CBI action and said it indicated that the agency was acting in a "pre-planned" manner. Although Dubey did not take names, the reference was apparent as the BJP has been P Chidambaram, who was the finance minister during the UPA government, for his alleged role in the matter.
Another heated exchange ensued between the Treasury and Opposition benches when finance minister Piyush Goyal took a dig at Tharoor, saying he did not understand the latter's "foreign accent". This was objected to by RSP member NK Premachandran, who is also Tharoor's fellow MP from Kerala. He came to the Congress MP's defence, saying "It is not fair on the part of the minister" to make such a comment.
When Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ananth Kumar intervened in the matter, Premachandran retorted that he had every right to do so, since the minister had made an observation about a member of the Opposition.
LS passes bill to nail fugitive economic offenders
The Fugitive Economic Offenders Bill, which was earlier brought in as an Ordinance, was passed by the Lok Sabha, even as the Opposition questioned the government's sincerity in taking any action against them. The bill, aimed at preventing culprits accused of economic offence from evading the legal process and fleeing the country, got the support from several members of the Opposition even as several people questioned the real need for a new legislation and batted for more stringent application of the existing norms. Some members also pointed that the blanket power given to investigative agencies to raid and confiscate property of someone 'believed to be an offender' — without a court warrant — is prone to be misused to settle personal scores.
Tharoor also questioned why only those cases where the total value involved in such offences of Rs 100 crore or more was being brought under the purview of the bill. He said it was "laughable" if the government thinks that selling the properties of an economic offender will bring him back.
He also noted that MPs have the responsibility to ensure that any bill that is passed in Parliament is legally feasible while lamenting that in the last 25 years, the government could extradite only one offender.
RS gives nod to amendment in prevention of corruption law
Meanwhile, in Rajya Sabha, members debated and passed The Prevention of Corruption (Amendment) Bill, 2013, which seeks to fix responsibility with the bribe giver while also adds an additional layer of protection to prevent undue harassment of public officers under the law.
However, the Opposition raised serious doubts about the intent of the government during the debate, even as the bill was passed. Alleging that central investigating agencies were being misused to target opposition leaders, Congress MP Anand Sharma accused the Centre of adopting double standards on corruption. He sought to know why the Narendra Modi government had not yet appointed the anti-graft ombudsman Lokpal. Sharma claimed that many of the ruling party chief ministers were facing serious allegations but the dispensation was silent on taking any action against them.
Ruling BJP, however, hit back, claiming unprecedented efforts towards curbing corruption and ensuring development were being undertaken which the Congress was unwilling to see. Countering the charges, BJP's Shwait Malik said that the Congress needed to "worry and introspect" about its future while 'karmayogi' Modi has changed the environment in the state and curbed corruption.
CPM member KK Ragesh said corruption in the judiciary was also on the rise and this needed to be dealt with seriously, while RJD MP Manoj Kumar Jha said the act is silent on whistleblowers. While Shiv Sena MP Anil Desai said it has provisions to protect the honest officers who have made silly mistakes while taking decisions, CPI MP D Raja said there was a nexus between people who have political power and big business houses and there is a need for Lokpal in the system.
With inputs from agencies
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