27 Dec 2011

India due to debate anti-corruption bill

7:09 pm on 27 December 2011

India's parliament is due to consider an anti-corruption bill that will allow, among other things, the setting up of a corruption ombudsman.

The bill was drafted after the campaigner Anna Hazare went on hunger strike in August and he is about begin a new three-day fast in protest against the legislation.

Mr Hazare has called the bill "weak and useless" in its present form.

The BBC reports a string of major corruption scandals have hit the government's reputation.

Mr Hazare's 12 day anti-corruption fast in August became the focus of a national campaign and put pressure on the government to act on the issue.

The bill proposes keeping India's top investigation agency, CBI, out of the purview of the ombudsman.

In other words, the nine-member Lokpal committee - which will comprise the ombudsman - will not have its own investigative agency, a major demand of anti-corruption activists like Mr Hazare and many opposition parties.

The government has also kept outside the ombudsman's remit a "citizen's charter" for the timely investigation of public grievances against the government, another demand of Mr Hazare.

Instead it has tabled a separate citizen's charter bill in parliament which makes it mandatory for every government ministry and department to act within 30 days on public complaints about services.