New Himachal Pradesh Lokyukta Justice L S Panta,who took charge in the morning,favoured changes in the state’s Lokayukta Act but differed with Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal on the grounds of consulting team Anna on redrafting new provisions for amendments in the law.
The Himachal Pradesh Lokayukta Act was enacted in 1983. Now it’s 2012,a huge time gap. The Lokayukta Act required to be strengthened. I will initiate the process of consultation with legal experts and also the state government,” said Justice Panta,minutes after he took the oath at Rajbhawan.
“If anyone (team Anna) has suggestions,they can forward it to the government,” says new Lokayukta.
Two major changes,which Justice Panta hinted at are — giving suo-moto powers to the Lokayukta to inquire into complaints of corruption and having an independent investigation agency.
“I have appeared as a counsel for Vidhan Sabha before Lokayukta when I was practicing in the high court here. I had thoroughly read the Act and now having taken over the charge,I definitely see the need for changes,particularly at a time when there is so much talks about Lokpal and Lokayuktas in the states, he said.
Justice Panta,however,said since there was no final word on the Lokapal and what shape it would finally take,the state can’t wait indefinitely. “Parliament will do its own job,we will do our own, the new Lokayukta remarked.
The chief minister,however,said,”Now that new Lokayukta has assumed the office. We will amend Act in consultation with him. Team Anna has also sent its draft and I will ask officials to start discussions on the changes and also invite team Anna,if need be.”
New Himachal Pradesh Lokayukta — Justice L S Panta
Born in a small village Praunthi in Jubbal-Kotkhai tehsil on April 23,1944,Justice Panta has resigned as the Chairman of the National Green Tribunal only a few days ago in order to take the charge of Lokayukta in home state — where he served as the high court judge before his revelation of the Supreme Court in 2006. He retired in April 2009.
Asked about his green tribunal assignment,Justice (rtd) Panta said India was the third country after Australia and New Zealand to have “green courts” in the country.
“It’s a very effective,independent body dealing with environmental cases. Anybody can approach the tribunal for civil damages arising out of non-implementation of various laws relating to the environment,” he said.
He said,”I had established the principal Bench of the tribunal at New Delhi having jurisdiction over UP,Uttarakhand,Punjab,Himachal Pradesh,Haryana,Rajasthan and J&K. The process for setting up circuit Benches was also underway.
The principal Bench with minimum 10 judicial members and equal number of non-judicial members including experts in the field of environment is much stronger than what New Zealand and Australia have.
He state his return to Himachal as home-coming.