In a landmark legislation aimed at combating corruption in public life, the state assembly today passed by voice vote the Bihar Lokayukta Bill, 2011, for constitution of a strong and effective Lokayukta in the state bringing within its ambit the office of the chief minister, ministers and officials down to the lowest rung.
The speaker Uday Narayan Chaudhary put the Bihar Lokayukta Bill, 2011 for the voting by the members who passed the historic legislation by a voice voice.
Earlier participating in the debate, chief minister Nitish Kumar urged the members to back the Bihar Lokayukta Bill, 2011, wholeheartedly to help change the public perception about the political class and restore their faith in the political system.
"Let all of us put ourselves to scrutiny by the Lokayukta as we have nothing to fear about," he said in a tone of reassurance to the fellow lawmakers.
"The constitution of Lokayukta will help change (positively) public perception about the political class as the parliamentary democracy is the best political system in my view," Kumar said.
The chief minister strongly defended the provisions of the Bihar Lokayukta Bill, 2011, saying that contours of the proposed law was consistent with the state government's 'zero tolerance' policy towards corruption in public life.
Describing the Bihar Lokayukta Bill, 2011 as 'unique', 'strong' and 'effective', Kumar urged the Centre to incorporate its provisions in the Lokpal bill if the central legislation also intended to cover the Lokayukta under the proposed central legislation.
Outlining the contours of the Lokayukta bill, the chief minister said that the bill was a strong, effective model. Not only a strong institution of Lokayukta has been proposed, but it has been given unrestricted power to get corruption charges against public servants probed and prosecuted to its logical conclusion.
The selection and search committees too have been made with eminent people in public life to take decision in a time-bound manner on the selection and identification of eligible candidates of unimpeachable character and integrity to grace the office of the Lokayukta as its chairman and members.
The state government has deliberately kept out the executive in the process of search and selection of suitable candidates as Lokayukta to avoid criticism in this regard, Kumar said.
On the opposition's charge accusing the state government of rushing through the Bihar Lokayukta Bill, 2011, in a hurried manner, the chief minister said that he had made a commitment to the people to bring such a legislation in this calender year and he has delivered as much.
"I don't need permission of anyone to carry out legislative business as the people have elected my government to discharge duties in the best interests of the state and its people," he said.
Kumar defended the process adopted for the legislation saying that the state government adopted a proper procedure to first take a decision, then formulate a draft legislation and elicit public views on the provisions before getting the bill re-drafted by a three-member ministerial panel to finally circulate the copies in the public before its tabling and passage in the state assembly.
The NDA government, since taking over power in 2005, has consistently strived to eradicate corruption and had initiated measures among others, the Special Courts Act, 2009, to ensure speedy trial of corrupt and tainted public servants with provisions for confiscation of their property for setting up schools for students, Nitish Kumar said.
Reiterating his commitment to take the crusade against corruption to its logical conclusion, Kumar said that the Lokayukta will be provided with all resources and manpower it required to investigate and prosecute corrupt public servants.
At the same time, the Lokayukta too will be monitored by the public and in the event of complaint against them that was to be found correct during probe on the recommendation of the Governor, they could be removed by adoption of a motion by three-forth members of the two houses of the state legislature convened specially for the purpose, he said.
The state government also enacted and implemented the Right to Service Act to combat corruption in delivery of basic services to the people like caste, residence and related certificates, Kumar said adding complaints about bribe being demanded by the local officials in lieu of these services has stopped.