India’s Cabinet Approves Controversial Anti-Graft Bill

Posted December 20th, 2011 at 8:40 pm (UTC-5)
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India's Cabinet has approved a landmark anti-corruption bill that was the focus of nationwide demonstrations earlier this year.

The Cabinet meeting headed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Tuesday approved the bill, which would create a nine-member ombudsman office to investigate and prosecute senior politicians and civil servants suspected of graft.

The bill will be introduced to parliament later this week. It was immediately criticized by activists and the main opposition BJP, who claim it has been watered down.

Activists have insisted that the prime minister, the judiciary, the Central Bureau of Investigation and lower-level civil servants should all be subject to ombudsman review.

The government has refused to relinquish administrative control over the Central Bureau of Investigation. The prime minister would be brought under the ombudsman's authority, except on issues pertaining to national security, international relations, atomic energy and space.

In August, veteran activist Anna Hazare held a 12-day hunger strike to protest an initial draft of the bill, saying it was a weak measure, incapable of curbing government corruption that it was meant to target.

Hazare's campaign brought millions of ordinary Indians onto the streets across the country to protest the culture of bribery in Indian society.

The public response was a shock for Mr. Singh's coalition government, which has been tainted by a series of high-profile corruption scandals.