Himachal house adopts Lokayukta Bill

Congress ducks debate on bill

Shimla: With opposition Congress abstaining from the debate, the Himachal Pradesh assembly passed the HP Lokayukta Bill, 2012 are incorporating an additional clause that empowers Lokayukta with powers of contempt of court at par with the High Court.

As the congress had staged a walkout during the question hour itself and did not participate in rest of the days proceeding, the bill was adopted after a short debate in which only two members from the ruling benches participated.

Making a comparison with Uttarakhand Lokayukta Bill, the chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal said that the bill introduced in the house was more stringent and in consonance with the constitution as it did not infringe upon other complimentary laws.

He said that the Uttarakhand Bill was awaiting presidential assent as it had come up against some constitutional infringements. Whereas the Uttarakhand Bill only covered those officers who are posted in the state but the Himachal Bill covers all officers, he said.

Taking cognizance of BJP member Khushi Ram Balnatah’s suggestion that societies, sports bodies, hydropower project, cement companies and private universities be brought within the ambit of the bill, Dhumal said that it can be considered and notified later.

The Bill aimed at curbing corruption among public servants covers all officials’ right from Chief Minister to Panchayat members and complaints could also be file against the elected members of Panchayati Raj institutions and Urban local bodies.

Besides the Lokayukta, who would be a retired Supreme Court Judge of Chief Justice of High Court, there would be two Up-lokayukts (deputy Lokayukta).

The Bill would replace the Lokayukta Act, 1983, which had not been found to be effective, and bring the public servants indulging in corruption to justice.

The power to initiate an enquiry against Chief Minister, ministers, CPSs, MLAs and officers of the rank of Secretary and above and heads of the Department would vest in Lokayukta but no action would be initiated without the permission of Full Bench of Lokayukta.

Further, the enquiry, investigations and prosecution shall continue in case the complainant dies and no complaint shall be allowed to be withdrawn unless the Lokayukta is fully satisfied that the complainant had made a bonafide mistake.

However, the prosecution sanction in case of the Chief Minister would be accorded by the state Assembly, against MLAs by the Speaker and against Ministers, officers of the rank of secretary to the government and above and heads of the department would be given by the Chief Minister.

The prosecution sanction against judicial officers would be accorded by the high court.

A provision to keep the identity of “whistle blowers” secret and providing them security has also been made while in case of frivolous complaints a fine up to Rs 10 lakh and imprisonment of one year has also been made and no complaint would be allowed to be withdrawn unless the Lokayukta was satisfied that these has been a “bonafide mistake”.

The official amendment empowering the Lokayukta with powers of contempt of Court on par with high court was carried and the Bill was passed.

While the Congress members were not present in the house only two BJP members Suresh Bharadwaj and Khushi ram Balnatah participated in the debate and supported the Bill.

Later talking to media persons, the Congress members said that they did not participate in the debate as the CLP leader was not consulted before tabling the bill and no effort was made to reach some consensus.

The bill is very weak and post of the powers vest in the chief minister and the government, they said.

With inputs from agencies

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