Tough stand Three-member body gets overriding powers to deal with corruption at high places
Proposing overriding powers to deal with corruption and misuse of public office,Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal,on Wednesday,tabled a new Lokayukta Bill in the assembly to create an independent three-member institution of Lokayukta different from the existing one-member authority.
The bill,which the state cabinet had cleared late on Tuesday evening,covers the office of chief minister,cabinet ministers,chief parliamentary secretaries,MLAs,ward panches of panchayats and officers of the rank of secretary and above,beside heads of the departments.
The Lokayukta will have suo-moto powers to investigate complaints of corruption,misuse of powers by public servants,allegations of nepotism,favoritism,officials indiscipline and all acts punishable under Prevention of Corruption Act,which also includes victimisation of whistle blowers as an offence.
The Lokayukta will have its own independent investigating agency and a prosecution wing,beside powers to create special courts for time-bound trials. For the first time,the Lokayukta will also have separate Lokayukta thanas (police stations)
Introducing the Bill,Dhumal declared that the proposed law provides for a strong Lokayukta and asked the Opposition to study the provisions of the Bill and come prepared to the House on April 6 with suggestions so that it was passed without any unnecessary delay.
He rejected the Congress criticism of a Bill being presented in haste but said the government has an open mind to make any change to make the legislation strong or even refer to any select committee of the House,if the opposition desires.
Dhumal refused to accept Congress MLA G S Balis claim about the bill being toothless as described by Team Anna and asked Congress to go through the draft.
Powers to initiate a probe into complaints against chief minister and ministers will rest with the full bench of the Lokayukta,which include two up-lokayuktas. The draft reads,Enquiry,investigations and prosecution will continue in case the complainant dies and no complaint shall be allowed to be withdrawn unless the Lokayukta is fully satisfied that the complainant had made a bonafide mistake.
A provision to keep the identity of whistle blowers secret and providing them security has also been made while those found to have filed frivolous complaints will be dealt an imprisonment of upto one year and a fine up to Rs 10 lakh. Speaker Tulsi Ram announced that the bill is listed for discussion and passing on April 6 the last day of the current session.