Himachal introduces bill to strengthen Lokayukta (Lead)

April 4th, 2012 - 7:12 pm ICT by IANS  

Shimla, April 4 (IANS) Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal Wednesday introduced a bill to put an effective Lokayukta system in place by giving more power to the ombudsman.

Introducing the Himachal Pradesh Lokayukta Bill in the assembly, Dhumal appealed to the members to go through it and have a healthy discussion.

“We (cabinet) have incorporated suggestions received from various quarters, including the public. It’s an important bill. From the chief minister to a ward panch (ward member in panchayat), everybody is covered by it,” Dhumal said.

Speaker Tulsi Ram said the bill had been listed for discussion Friday, the last day of the budget session.

Before the bill was introduced, Congress legislator G.S. Bali sought clarification from the government on Team Anna member Arvind Kejriwal’s recent criticism of the draft Himachal Pradesh Lokayukta Bill.

Dhumal distanced himself from Team Anna members.

“No officials have gone to Delhi to meet Team Anna members,” he said. “Kejriwal’s assertions are not sacrosanct.”

Kejriwal called the Himachal bill “very weak and ineffective” and asked the state to follow the Uttarakhand system of Lokayukta.

Team Anna has accused the Himachal government of drafting a bill that “seeks to legitimise corruption rather than punish those responsible for it.”

The Lokayukta bill, which seeks to repeal the existing Himachal Pradesh Lokayukta Act of 1983 that was found to be not effective, would take remedial action against corruption and bring public servants indulging in corruption to justice.

The power to initiate enquiry against the chief minister, ministers, chief parliamentary secretaries, legislators and officers of the rank of secretary and above and heads of the departments would be vested in the Lokayukta, but no action would be initiated without the permission of the full bench of Lokayukta.

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investigations and prosecution shall continue in case the complainant dies and no complaint shall be allowed to be withdrawn unless the Lokayukta is fully satisfied that the complainant had made a bonafide mistake, says the bill.

However, the prosecution sanction in case of the ministers and legislators would be accorded by the state assembly while in case of judicial officers, the high court would be the competent authority to grant prosecution sanction.

The bill has a provision to keep the identity of “whistle blowers” secret and providing them security has also been made. While in case of frivolous complaints, there is a provision of a fine upto Rs.10 lakh and imprisonment of one year has also been made.

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