Indian President Pranab Mukherjee [official website] on Wednesday signed into law a landmark anti-graft bill passed by parliament in December. The new law [AFP report] creates a corruption ombudsman with extensive power to prosecute politicians and civil servants to create a "bribe-free India." The bill was approved by parliament [AFP report] with support from both the ruling Congress and the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) [party website]. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh [official website] called the law, under which he himself could potentially be prosecuted, "historic and landmark legislation." The law comes in the wake of a two-year anti-corruption movement that has swept the nation as India gears up for general elections this May.
Governmental corruption has been a topic of serious discussion in India in recent years. In July the Supreme Court ruled [JURIST report] that elected representatives convicted of serious crimes must immediately vacate their positions and be disqualified from future elections. The anti-corruption bill was stalled [JURIST report] in the upper house of parliament in December 2011. The bill failed to pass after an abrupt reversal by the ruling Congress, a move criticized by the opposition party. The lower house of parliament passed the bill [JURIST report] earlier that month.