Budget session starts, President Pranab Mukherjee pledges to tackle corruption

Pranab Mukherjee

With scams denting its image, the government today pledged to usher in reforms for greater transparency, probity and accountability in governance and to enact a slew of legislations to tackle bribery by domestic and foreign public officials.

In an hour-long address to the joint sitting of Parliament, his first, President Pranab Mukherjee also touched on various issues like slower growth of economy and steps to deal with factors responsible for the slowdown.

Against the backdrop of the recent gangrape and brutal assault on a 23-year-old girl in Delhi, he expressed deep concerns over incidents of sexual offences against women and referred to the promulgation of an ordinance providing for stringent punishment in such cases.

"My government remains committed to ushering in reforms for greater transparency, probity, integrity and accountability in governance," said Mukherjee, days after the country was rocked by yet another scam in the Rs 3,600 crore deal for purchase of VVIP helicopters from an Italian company AugustaWestland.

"To this end, my government attaches priority to the enactment of legislation proposed in the Whistle Blowers' Protection Bill, the Prevention of Bribery of Foreign Public Officials and Officials of Public International Organizations Bill, Citizens' Right to Grievance Redress Bill, and the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Bill, which already stand introduced in the Parliament," he said.

The President said the government is also considering amendments to the Prevention of Corruption Act to punish the guilty and protect the honest public servants "more effectively".

The address, a constitutional requirement, marks the commencement of the Budget session of Parliament.

Mukherjee also announced that government proposes to introduce the Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill in this session as a "significant" measure towards judicial reforms.

Speaking on cross-border relations, the President said, "We continue to seek peace, stability and co-operation in the subcontinent. We attach importance to relations with neighbours."

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