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Hazare visit to give push to Congress demand for strong Lokayuta

During his visit next month Hazare is likely to hold a series of public meetings across the state.

dehradun Updated: Feb 10, 2018 21:06 IST
Deep Joshi
Deep Joshi
Hindustan Times, Dehradun
Uttarakhand news,Anna Hazare,Lokayukta Bill
Hazare seems to have selected Uttarakhand for his visit because the Lokayukta Bill is yet to be enacted in the hill state.(HT FILE)

The Congress feels that anti-graft crusader Anna Hazare’s visit to Uttarakhand next month will give a leg up to its demand that the BJP government enact the Lokayukta Bill in the assembly’s budget session that commences at Gairsain on March 20.

“If he (Hazare) raises the anti-corruption issue during his visit to the state next month, that will lend weight to our demand that the government enact the proposed anti-graft law,” said Indira Hridayesh, the Leader of Opposition in the state assembly. “If it fails to consider our demand, the youth wing of our party will launch a statewide agitation in favour of a strong Lokayukta,” the Congress leader said.

During his visit next month Hazare is likely to hold a series of public meetings across the state. He is also likely to raise the issue of the Lokayukta Bill. Hazare’s visit will precede his agitation in Delhi from March 23 to pressure the BJP-led central government into introducing a strong Lokpal.

Hazare seems to have selected Uttarakhand for his visit because the Lokayukta Bill is yet to be enacted in the hill state. It has been pending since the BJP government tabled the proposed anti-graft law in the first session of the assembly after winning the 2017 assembly polls with a massive majority.

It, however, referred the Bill to a Select Committee of the House to “accommodate” the views of the people as well as the Opposition. Hridayesh, however, alleged that the BJP government referred the proposed law to the select panel “unilaterally and without consulting” the Opposition. In the subsequently held budget session in June, the Lokaykta Bill was tabled in the House at the “dead of night.” The Opposition had dubbed the move as unconstitutional accusing the government of not notifying the business advisory committee about it in advance.

Qazi Nizamuddin, Congress legislator and a former member of the now disbanded select panel, alleged that the second draft of the Lokayukta Bill tabled in the assembly was heavily diluted. According to him, the first draft of the law allowed all public servants to be prosecuted for corruption without obtaining the majority opinion of the Lokayukta bench. “Obtaining the majority view of the bench was mandatory only in corruption cases against the chief minister. The first draft also proposed to empower the bench to take suo motu cognizance of corruption cases against all public servants,” Nizamuddin said.

He claimed the second draft reversed all such proposals. “It proposed a rider making it mandatory to obtain the majority opinion of the Lokayukta bench before prosecuting all public representatives including the chief minister,” Nizamuddin said. The second draft also proposed to divest the anti-graft Ombudsman of its power to take suo motu cognizance of the corruption cases against all public servants. Besides, it also proposed a vigilance commission to be set up to investigate graft related cases against all public servants.

“If such a heavily watered down version of the anti-graft law is enacted, its very purpose would be defeated,” Nizamuddin said. “This is why we are demanding that this (BJP) government enact a strong Lokayukta Bill with all its teeth and claws in place.”

Parliamentary affairs minister Prakash Pant, however, questioned the Congress legislators for not raising objections to the proposed anti-graft law when it was processed by the select committee. “They (Congress) were also the members of the select panel and there had been no note of dissent from their side.”

First Published: Feb 10, 2018 21:06 IST