Answerable only to people, says Mamata Banerjee as Bengal Lokayukta bill keeps CM’s office out of ambit
The state assembly on Thursday passed the West Bengal Lokayukta (Amendment) Bill, 2018, that kept the office the chief minister out of the Lokayukta’s jurisdiction.Updated: Jul 26, 2018 21:52 IST
West Bengal will have an anti-corruption ombudsman for public representatives and bureaucrats but the chief minister will not be under its ambit.
The state assembly on Thursday passed the West Bengal Lokayukta (Amendment) Bill, 2018, that kept the office the chief minister out of the Lokayukta’s jurisdiction.
Justifying the proposed law, chief minister Mamata Banerjee said she was answerable only to the people of Bengal and not to any leader or party.
Leaders from all opposition parties criticised the government saying the chief minister’s office cannot be exempted from investigation in cases related to corruption.
During a debate, Congress, Left Front and BJP leaders objected to a clause in the bill that keeps the chief minister’s office free from investigation into any complaint and mandates the government’s approval for probe against state government officials.
Banerjee refuted the opposition’s allegation that the chief minister has been completely kept out of the ambit of Lokayukta. She said the shield was applicable only to certain types of investigations. “The opposition is unnecessarily trying to create confusion on this issue.”
Banerjee said similar protection has been given to all legislators irrespective of their political background. Permission of assembly speaker is required for initiating inquiry against any MLA, she said.
Leader of Left Parties in the assembly Sujan Chakrabarty argued that if the chief minister has been projected for so long by her party as ‘symbol of honesty’, there was no reason to make her immune to Lokayukta.
State BJP president and Kharagpur MLA, Dilip Ghosh pointed out that chief ministers of 18 states fall within the ambit of Lokayukt. “What is so special about the Bengal chief minister that she requires a shield? I do not see any reason in this immunity clause,” he said.
Dismissing the criticism, parliamentary affairs minister Partha Chaterjee said the provisions to exclude the chief minister’s office has been kept in the bill only to ensure smooth functioning of the government.
“The current political situation is such that anyone can lodge a false complaint against the chief minister. A probe into such allegations will hamper the functioning of the government. The opposition is unnecessarily making an issue out of this,” he argued.
Incidentally, the Supreme Court recently sought explanation from chief secretaries of 11 states, including West Bengal, on why they have not appointed Lokayukta and Up-Lokayukta.
First Published: Jul 26, 2018 21:51 IST