Uttarakhand Bill on Lokayukta?
Anna Hazare lauds the model bill, extends support to Khanduri government?
Uttarakhand shows the way?
By Ravindra Saini in Dehradun?
Aiming to providing corruption-free and transparent governance to the people, Chief Minister of Uttarakhand BC Khanduri took a historic decision by creating a strong Lokayukta in the state. The Bill has become a law after the state Governer Margret Alwa granted it her ascent. With this, Uttarakhand became the first state in the country to pass a Bill for strong Lokpal.
The Chief Minister has promised to strengthen the office of the Lokayukta by bringing in the office of Chief Minister as well as the ministers under its purview. Earlier, the Lokayukta in the state was toothless tiger. Its reports were recommendatory and not tabled in the State Assembly since 2006. Shri Khanduri after taking over the reins of the state on September 11 had decided to table all reports. The BJP has decided to fight elections on the issue of clean image.
Talking to Organiser in Dehradun, Shri Khanduri said corruption and those involved in corruption will find no place in Uttarakhand. The government has vowed to liberate Uttarakhand from this deadly menace. The Lokayukta Bill has been reinforced in the state and the officials and employees engaged in dishonest exploitation of power for personal gains would not be spared and stringent action would be initiated against them. The government has decided to take some tough measures to deal with such persons. He said the State government has created a separate department for Suraaj, Bharastachar Unmulan and Jan Sewa to foster good governance and public service. He said the Right to Public Service Act was major step aimed at achieving the goal of good governance.
The Uttarakhand Lokayukta Bill 2011 was passed in the Assembly after over four-and-a-halfhours debate, with the Congress finally extending support and withdrawing its motion for the Bill to be referred to a select committee. Winding up the discussion on the Bill, Chief Minister Shri Khanduri sought to allay the numerous fears expressed by mostly Congress members, but also of the BSP and UKD, that it would not stand constitutional scrutiny. Emphasising that the haste involved in bringing the Bill has nothing to do with seeking an advantage in the coming elections, Shri Khanduri said he had steered clear of politics while introducing the Bill for just this reason.
He said it was important to understand the urgency in passing the Lokayukhta Bill because not only was there a nationwide environment seeking strict action against corruption, but also as a contrast against the 43 years delay on the Lokpal Bill at the Centre. The Lokpal Bill has been sent seven times to select committees only to be put in cold storage. Responding to specific objections raised by the Congress and other opposition members, he said the criticism of the composition of the committee to select the Lokpal was unfounded as it had more neutral members as compared to that suggested by the Union Government for the Lokpal. He asserted that the Law Department and the Law Commission have been consulted on drafting the Bill and fears that it would prove ultra vires of the Constitution were unfounded. It would stand the scrutiny of the Governer and the Centre, even though it has some content that was on the concurrent list.
To the criticism that the condition for ‘unanimity’ among the Lokayukta members on taking action against the Chief Minister, minister and MLAs was tantamount to ensuring their prosecution would never be undertaken, he said it actually implied the kind of consensus that was practiced by benches of the High Court and Supreme Court. The powers of contempt granted to the Lokyukta were also limited, and the task of prosecution would be passed on to the special courts.
To the demand that NGOs be included in the ambit of Lokayukta, he said it was basically for government servants, and NGOs would be investigated only if they were run by public servants or if accountability was sought on expenditure of government funds. The doubts on the Bill would be further clarified once the rules on the law were formulated, as specifics could not be part of the bare act. Irked by the repeated charge of the Congress that the bill was a ‘political gambit’ focused on the coming elections, he threw an open challenge to tumultuous applause by party members that the BJP would contest on the basis of its performance.
Former Chief Ministers, former ministers and retired officers will also be under its purview. Under its commitment to provide good governance and transparent administration, the government has formulated the Right to Public Service Act which would help in service delivery to the people in a time bound manner.
State Governer Margret Alva granted her assent to the Bill. After putting her signatures on the Bill, Smt Alva said the Lokayukta Bill was historic one, and expressed the hope that it would be implemented soon so that the people were benefited by it. She said that there was healthy discussion on the Bill in the Vidhan Sabha and it was passed unanimously.
Members of Lokayukta will include Leader of Opposition, two serving judges from Uttarakhand High Court; a senior most member of existing State Lokayukta and two members from ex-Chief Justice of High Court/Supreme court/ex-Chief Election Commissioner/ ex-Chief of Army/Navy/Air force/ex-chairman of UPSC/ ex-Chief Information Commissionar/ex-cabinet secretary, but they should not hold any government post after retirement. The selection committee will set up five search committees and short-list three names against one member post. Later, State Government will make online all the proposed names so that people can make their comment against any person.
State Lokayukta would have six member team including a chairman and five other members or eight members including a chairman and seven other members, in which 50 per cent members would be selected from legal service including ex-chief justice of HC/SC or Advocate having practicing in HC/SC for the last 20 years or more. Remaining 50 per cent members’ eligibility would be including public Service Commission/ finance expert/ journalism and Research background. State Lokayukta term would be for five years or upto 70 years of his age and will get salary equal to the salary of Chief Justice of HC.
Lokayukta would either take congnisance directly or take cognisance on the basis of complaint. They would have three wings i.e. investigation, prosecution and judiciary. With this implementation, the State Vigilance would come under the command of the State Lokayukta directly. The Bill will even bring the lower judiciary in the Lokayukt net. Only the judges of the High Court have been kept outside its purview. The range of punishment for the guilty starts with a minimum of six months and extends up to life imprisonment.
Giving 10 on 10 points to the Uttarakhand Lokayukt Act, the Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Arun jaitley said it would become a ‘model law’ for other states and rising above party politics the Central Government too could in principle take up some points from it for their Lokpal Bill. “we are proud of that Uttarakhand has become the first state in the country to adopt an effective Bill that is in keeping with the aspirations of the nation which is already in the midst of a full fledged agitation against corruption launched by Anna Hazare and his team. Not only is the Lokayukta strong but also the procedure of appointing him is impartial. It will become a model law for the states. On a scale of 10, I would give 10 points to the Act,” said Shri Jaitley while talking to mediapersons in Dehradun. He said as and when the BJP-ruled states feel the need, the Uttarakhand Lokayukta Act could be adopted by them as well.
Anna team member Kiran Bedi said in Dehradun that the BJP government of Uttarakhand has set a fine example by tabling a strong Lok Ayukta Bill in the Legislative Assembly. She congratulated the people of Uttarakhand on the states’s Lokayukta.
Shri Anna Hazare also hailed Uttarakhand Chief Minister BC Khanduri for the passage of the Lokpal Bill. “We will felicitate Shri Khanduri for his move… he is another fauji like me,” he said adding that the UPA Government should base its Lokpal Bill on the line of Uttarakhand Lokyukta Bill.