HP govt tables new Lokayukta Bill in assembly | punjab | Hindustan Times
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HP govt tables new Lokayukta Bill in assembly

The Himachal Pradesh government on Wednesday tabled a "much stronger" Lokayukta Bill in the Vidhan Sabha, based on the Centre's Lokpal Bill. The bill focuses on making the Lokayukta system more effective, besides making the ombudsman a multi-member body with an independent inquiry wing.

punjab Updated: Feb 19, 2014 20:49 IST
HT Correspondent

The Himachal Pradesh government on Wednesday tabled a "much stronger" Lokayukta Bill in the Vidhan Sabha, based on the Centre's Lokpal Bill. The bill focuses on making the Lokayukta system more effective, besides making the ombudsman a multi-member body with an independent inquiry wing.


Chief minister Virbhadra Singh introduced the bill in the absence of opposition members, who continued to boycott the house. The bill covers all public servants, including the chief minister, posted within and outside the state.

"It is expedient to re-enact the Himachal Pradesh Lokayukta Act, 2014, by repealing the existing Himachal Pradesh Lokayukta Bill, 1983," said the CM. HP was the second state in the country to have a Lokayukta.

Discussion on the bill will be held on Thursday.

The bill proposes provision of a three-member body instead of one member. The chairperson would be a person who has been a judge of the Supreme Court or chief justice of a high court, while other members would have a judicial background.

They should be a former high court judge or district judge with 10 years' experience. The members should be people of "impeccable integrity and outstanding ability", with special knowledge and expertise of minimum 25 years in anti-corruption matters.

The chairperson and members would be appointed by a committee comprising the CM, Vidhan Sabha speaker, leader of opposition, high court chief justice and an eminent jurist.

Jurisdiction

The new Lokayukta Bill would bring under its purview the chief minister, ministers, legislators, former legislators, public servants, government employees, boards, corporations, companies, societies, trust, autonomous bodies set up by Centre or state.

Exclusion

Lokayukta cannot hold inquiries against central government employees, without the central government's permission.

Inquiry wing

The Lokayukta will have a separate inquiry wing headed by director of inquiries for conducting preliminaries inquiries against public servants. Staff and officers will be given by the state government. The inquiry wing will have all the powers of a civil court, and can summon any person or requisition any public record.

The Lokayukta shall not inquire into or investigate any complaint filed seven years after the offence is committed.

Procedure of complaint

The bill emphasises that the complaint be accompanied by an affidavit. The Lokayukta shall have powers to initiate an inquiry against any public servant by its inquiry wing.

Prosecution

The Lokayukta shall constitute a state prosecution wing headed by the director of prosecution.
Provision for special courts

The bill also makes provision for special courts. The state government will constitute special courts on the recommendation of Lokayukta to hear and decide corruption cases. The courts will ensure completion of each trial within one year.

Attachment of property and confiscation

The bill makes a provision for attachment and confiscation of property acquired by corrupt means till the completion of investigation. The Lokayukta, on receipt of complaint, will complete preliminary inquiry within 90 days. In case the Lokayukta decides to proceed to investigate the complaint, it shall direct any agency to carry out the investigation, to be completed within six months. The Loklayukta will have powers to provisionally attach the assets of accused facing inquiry. The Lokayukta will not inquire into complaints against its members.

Assessment of exchequer

The bill proposes that if any public servant is convicted of an offence under the Prevention of Corruption Act, the Lokayukta may make an assessment of loss caused to the public exchequer, and may order recovery of the loss from the convicted public servant.

Declaration of assets

Under the Lokayukta Bill, it would be mandatory for every public servant to declare his assets within 30 days from the date on which he took the oath of affirmation. The public servant shall also declare assets owned by his spouse and dependent children, jointly or separately. The competent authority in respect of each department shall ensure that all statements are uploaded on the websites before August 31.

Offences and Penalty

To discourage frivolous complaints, the bill proposes imprisonment up to one year and fine up to `1,00,000. Only special courts shall take cognizance of an offence under this act.

Search and Seizure

The Lokayukta will have powers to authorise an investigating agency to search and seize documents required for the inquiry.

Powers to remove or suspended officials

The Lokayukta will have powers to remove or suspend public servants who could hamper the inquiries. The bill binds the state government to ordinarily accept the recommendation of Lokayukta, except for the reason to be recorded in writing in case not feasible for administrative reasons.

Powers of civil court

The Lokayukta will have all powers of the civil court, under the code of civil procedure, while trying a suit.

Removal of chairpersons and members

The chairperson and members shall be removed by the Governor on grounds of misbehaviour after the high court, on a reference being made to it by governors on a petition signed by at least 25 members of the legislative assembly.