Lokpal debate in first half of session: Bansal

New Delhi: The government today said it wants to bring the bill to set up anti-corruption ombudsman, Lokpal, in Rajya Sabha during the first part of the current Budget session of Parliament.

Replying to a notice given by Leader of the Opposition Arun Jaitley seeking suspension of the Question Hour to resume debate on the Lokpal bill, Parliamentary Affairs Minister P K Bansal said the government has studied the 187 amendments moved by Opposition and allies in ruling alliance since debate on the bill was adjourned after the House was adjourned sine die on December 29.

"We want to bring the bill within this part of session itself," he said. His statement marked a change of stand by government as the minister on the session eve press conference had said it would be difficult to take up the bill in the first part due to financial business.

Bansal said the Lokpal and the Lokayukta Bills have been kept on top of the list of business to be conducted during the Budget session of Parliament. Listing the priority for the government for first part of the Budget session which ends March 30, he said the Motion of Thanks to the President`s Address will be taken up first, followed by passing of General and Rail Budget and Lokpal Bill will be taken up thereafter.

"Notwithstanding the primacy that is accorded to passing of financial business, the government wishes to bring the (Lokpal) bill for further discussion in this part of the session," he said. "The government has studied the amendments and we have formulated our views," he said when Opposition members pressed for a response to the amendments moved.

The Government is committed to put in place a "strong mechanism to check corruption," Bansal said adding the UPA government wanted to hold consultations with the Opposition on the amendments moved and passing of the bill.

He disagreed with Jaitley who had cited rule 257 to state that discussion on Lokpal Bill has to be taken up since it remained inconclusive when the House was adjourned sine die. "There are other bills which we deferred…which were not concluded," Bansal said.