Lokpal: Indian upper house passes anti-corruption bill

India's anti-corruption activist Anna Hazare gestures as he speaks during his daylong hunger strike at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi, India, Sunday, March 25, 2012
Image caption Anna Hazare has been campaigning for the anti-corruption bill

The upper house of India's parliament has passed a new anti-corruption bill under which an independent ombudsman will have powers to prosecute politicians and civil servants.

The upper house introduced amendments so the bill will now go back to the lower house for final approval.

Calls for a so-called Lokpal bill have been led by campaigner Anna Hazare.

Mr Hazare says he will end his latest hunger strike once parliament finally clears the bill.

It will have to be signed by the president to become law.

"We must listen to the voices outside the house. I hope that the bill creates history," said Law Minister Kapil Sibal.

A 12-day fast by Mr Hazare led to the bill being introduced in parliament in 2011.

The lower house is expected to vote on the amendments on Wednesday. It passed the bill in 2011 but the upper house adjourned amid chaos without approving it.

This time, in a rare show of unity, the governing Congress party and the main opposition BJP supported the passage of the bill in the upper house.

However, the regional Samajwadi Party, an ally of the Congress, which had said it would oppose the proposed measures "tooth and nail" walked out in protest and did not participate in voting.

Over the weekend, Congress party leader Rahul Gandhi pledged his support to the bill, saying it was a "very, very powerful instrument" in the fight against corruption.

Renewed support in parliament for the bill comes ahead of general elections next year and after a strong showing this month in state elections in Delhi by a new anti-corruption party.

Its leader, Arvind Kejriwal, a former top aide of Mr Hazare in the anti-corruption campaign, has said the Lokpal bill in its current form is "weak".

A string of major corruption scandals has damaged the government's reputation in recent years.

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