The Punjab Vidhan Sabha on Monday passed a bill to bring top office-bearers of municipal bodies and zila parishads under the scrutiny of the state lokpal.
An amendment bill passed on Monday now brings into the lokapl's purview chairpersons and vice-chairpersons of zila parishads, mayors, senior deputy and deputy mayors, and the presidents and vice-presidents of municipal councils and nagar panchayats.
With another amendment, the government created the post of deputy lokpal, who would be appointed by the chief minister in consultation with the lokpal. The deputy lokpal would have all powers as exercised by the lokpal, without being subjected to the direction by any other authority.
In all, on the concluding day of the budget session, the Punjab Vidhan Sabha passed a total of 16 bills. The opposition was again absent, as the Congress kept up with its mock session in protest against the suspension of nine of its MLAs over ruckus they had created in the House.
Amendments made in the Punjab Excise Act 1914 now provide for a set of penalties for manufacturing illicit liquor and smuggling liquor -- imprisonment of up to a year and fine of Rs 1 lakh. The bill also had clauses for compounding of offence for which officers have been designated.
As the Punjab government plans to come up with a housing policy within a year, to deal with all issues related to illegal housing colonies during this time the Vidha Sabha passed the Punjab Laws (Special Provisions) Bill 2013, which gives temporary arrangement to deal with regularisation of illegal colonies.
The House also gave its nod to an amendment bill that says that inmates found using mobile phones inside jails or possessing a mobile phone or a part, are liable to a further punishment that could extend to a year.
To fulfill the provisions of 97th constitutional amendment of January 2012, the government also amended the Punjab Cooperative Societies Act 1961, adding certain provisions to make it according to the national pattern.
The Punjab Contract Farming Bill 2013 was also passed to give a legal framework for regulating contract farming through a legally enforceable agreement.
To streamline collection of VAT on goods coming from outside states, the government has decided to introduce e-trip system.
The charges for transfer of ownership of vehicles have also been reworked as per another amendment. For transfer of a two-wheeler now, Rs 500 per vehicle would be charged, for three-wheeler Rs 2,000, for four-wheeler except a tractor a sum of Rs 6,000, for all types of six-wheelers Rs 10,000, and for tractor Rs 15,000.
By bringing an amendment in the Punjab State Election Commission Act 1994, the House approved provisions for disqualification of member of a municipality and village panchayat.
The house also passed appropriation bill of over Rs 9,808 crore, and also cleared the bill for creating a fund for treatment of cancer and drug addiction.
In other bills
Parallel civic bodies: The Punjab (Community Participation In Municipalities) Bill was passed to allow for formation of 'area sabhas' and 'ward committees'. The stated idea is 'better functioning of local civic bodies', though the bill received an objection from ruling SAD's MLA Iqbal Singh Jhundan, who said it would create groups parallel to the elected bodies.
No anti-ragging panels: The Punjab Educational Institutions (Prohibition Of Ragging) Bill 2013 was passed despite objection raised by SAD MLA Justice Nirmal Singh (retired), who said the bill was silent on constitution of anti-ragging committees in school and colleges. When education minister said that rules would come later, Nirmal said those would be outside of the bill anyway. Though the government has been giving instructions to check ragging, the bill had been framed on high court directions.
Building culture: With the Punjab Ancient Historical Monuments, Archaeological Sites And Culture Heritage Maintenance Board Bill, the government has paved to imposed 1% cultural cess on roads, bridges, flyovers, etc taken up by the PWD and PIDB, costing more than Rs 50 crore.