BJP govt tables report on Lokayukta bill minutes before House adjourned, Cong cries foul
Uttarakhand Congress terms Trivendra Rawat government’s move as unconstitutional, says it wants a ‘watered down’ anti-graft law.dehradun Updated: Jul 05, 2017 22:22 IST
The Congress Friday termed as “unconstitutional” the ruling BJP’s move of tabling the select committee report on the Lokayukta bill in the Vidhan Sabha, minutes before the House was adjourned sine-die around midnight.
The Uttarakhand Assembly conducted business for a record 12 hours and 50 minutes Thursday, bringing in a supplementary list of business late at night to pass the appropriation bill on the state’s annual budget worth ₹39957.13 crore.
The reports of the select committees on the Lokayukta and transfer bills were also tabled just before midnight. The two legislations will be taken up for discussion and passage in the next session of the state assembly.
The committee on Lokayukta Bill has recommended reducing the tenure of the anti-corruption ombudsman and members of the body from five years to three years. It has also recommended that the Lokayukta will give its nod to an inquiry against those kept under its ambit only when a minimum of five members approve it.
The Congress slammed the move to table a “weak and watered down” bill and said it was done without talking the Opposition party in confidence.
“The way the government tabled the select committee’s report on the Lokayukta Bill stealthily, without taking us into confidence, is a brazen violation of the constitution and the parliamentary norms,” Leader of Opposition Indira Hridayesh said. “Clearly, it is an attempt by the government to give the state a highly watered down anti-graft law,” she said.
The Lokayukta Bill was introduced during the interim budget session in March but was referred to a select committee after the Congress objected to one of its key provisions. The provision prevented the anti-graft Ombudsman from prosecuting the chief minister without the consent of all the five members of the Lokayukta bench.
“We opposed the provision as a chief minister should also be prosecuted like any other public representative or official accused in a graft case,” said Congress legislator Qazi Nizamuddin who is also a member of the select committee.
“The treasury members had agreed to refer the bill to the select committee to incorporate suggestions of members of all political parties and those of the general public in the anti-graft law,” Nizamuddin added.
He accused the BJP government of trying to water down the Lokaykta Bill. “I have seen the report they tabled in the House in the dead of night, stealthily and without taking the Opposition into confidence”, Nizamuddin said. He alleged that the report is both “toothless and clawless”.
“First, it (report) seeks to delete the provision that allows the anti-graft Ombudsman to initiate suo motu graft cases against a CM or other public servants or officials,” Nizammuddin said.
According to him, the report also proposes to set up a State Vigilance Commission (SVC) on the pattern of the Central Vigilance Commission. “It also proposes that cases of corruption against public servants and officials cleared by the five-member bench of the anti-graft Ombudsman are further vetted by that panel (SVC),” said Nizamuddin. Such cases would then be referred to the state vigilance department that the select committee, in its report proposes, would initiate prosecution against the public servants concerned.
“You can imagine to what extent that report proposes to water down the Lokayukta Bill this government will pass in the assembly sooner or later misusing its brute majority,” he alleged.
State parliamentary affairs minister Praksh Pant rubbished all such allegations. He agreed that measures like SVC had been proposed but clarified that a fast track court would decide all corruption cases against public servants within a year. “This fast track court will also deal with cases other than the graft cases,” Pant said adding that the select committee report was tabled late at night as “the entire House was busy discussing various motions relating to the appropriation bill.”
Pant denied there was anything illegal about tabling the select committee report in the assembly. “We followed all rules needed to be followed while tabling that (select committee) report”, he asserted.