The Himachal Pradesh Assembly on the last day of the eight-day long winter session on Friday cleared a bill to put an effective Lokayukta system in place by giving power to ombudsman to punish for contempt and grant prosecution sanction.
Chief minister Virbhadra Singh laid the Himachal Pradesh Lokayukta 2014 bill in the house for discussions. Initiating the debate, leader of opposition Prem Kumar Dhumal said the provisions for granting prosecution power to the Lokayukta overrules section 197 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) and Article 311 of the Constitution.
“The new legislation oversteps the CrPC that provides for the government authorities to grant prosecution sanction and the Constitution where in the Article 311 acts as a safeguard to the civil servants,” said Dhumal.
In case, there is a disagreement between Lokayukta and the concerned government authority on whether a civil servant should be prosecuted or not, whose opinion will prevail, asked Dhumal.
“There had already been a delay in clearing the bill, and if the Center rejects it raising objection on the aforementioned provisions, the legislation will be held up again,” the leader of opposition said.
In his reply, the CM informed that the CrPC had already been amended with Lokayukta given the power to grant prosecution sanction.
The leader of opposition also suggested amendment in few more clauses, including the audit on annual bases by comptroller and auditor general (CAG) instead of auditor general of Himachal Pradesh.
Virbhadra clarified that the audit report will be placed before the assembly on annual bases. The bill was later passed with voice vote in amended form. The bill was re-introduced on December 10, following the government assembly withdrew the Lokayukta bill which was introduced in the house on February 19.
As a policy of zero tolerance against corruption, the bill seeks to establish a more effective mechanism to receive complaints relating to allegations of corruption against public functionaries, including the chief minister, ministers, MLAs, former chief ministers, members of the legislative assembly and public servant, thus bringing the same within the preview of Lokayukta.
The bill proposes one-member Lokayukta, who is or has been a judge of the Supreme Court or a chief justice of a high court.
The Lokayukta will constitute an inquiry wing headed by the director of inquiry for conducting preliminary probe into any offence committed by a public servant and the prosecution wing, headed by the director of prosecution, after having been so directed by the Lokayukta, can file a case in a special court.
The bill gives powers to the ombudsman to conduct search and seize documents and provisional attachment of assets as well as recommend transfer of suspension of public servant facing allegations of corruption.