Government okays key anti-graft bills to counter Anna threat

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    New Delhi, (IANS) Pushed into a corner by an aggressive opposition and the looming threat of Anna Hazare, the government Tuesday okayed a slew of anti-graft bills to tackle corruption at high places, including in the judiciary.

    The cabinet, at a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, approved the Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill, the Grievances Redressal Bill and the Whistleblowers’ Bill.

    The three bills were cleared even as Hazare has demanded that grievance redressal should be part of the Lokpal bill and the judiciary should also be brought in the ambit of the anti-graft ombudsman.

    The judicial accountability bill seeks to lay down enforceable standards of conduct for judges.

    It also requires judges to declare details of their and their family members’ assets and liabilities.

    As per the bill, a five member oversight committee – headed by a former Chief Justice of India, with a Supreme Court judge, the chief justice of a high court, an eminent person appointed by the president and the attorney general of India as an ex-officio member would look into allegations of corruption against judges.

    The Citizens Right to Grievance Redress Bill, 2011 seeks to check graft in lower levels of administration and sets standards for time bound public service and grievance redress from panchayats to government departments.

    The Whistleblowers’ Protection bill seeks to establish a mechanism to receive complaints relating to disclosure of any allegations of corruption against any public servant and to provide enough safeguard against victimisation of persons making such disclosures.

    A parliamentary standing committee has suggested that union ministers, higher judiciary and regulatory authorities should be under in the ambit of the bill.

    The cabinet decision came on a day when Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati refused to back the government on the Lokpal bill in its current form.

    The slew of anti-corruption legislations are expected to help the government blunt criticism from the opposition and Team Anna about its resolve to fight graft.

    The cabinet meeting was followed by an interaction among United Progressive Alliance (UPA) partners on the Lokpal bill.

    The Congress core group met earlier in the day ahead of the UPA meeting and an all-party meeting scheduled Wednesday.

    The government is keen on a wide political consensus in view of the opposition joining hands with Hazare to oppose some recommendations of the standing committee looking into the Lokpal bill.

    The 74-year-old Hazare also reiterated his threat to resume protests from Dec 27 if a strong Jan Lokpal bill was not passed in the winter session of parliament.

    Hazare went on a daylong fast Sunday and found backing from leaders of several parties, including the BJP, the Communists, the Janata Dal-United, Biju Janata Dal and Telugu Desam Party.

    It was the first time so many political veterans publicly rallied behind Hazare.