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While Uttarakhand has passed a strong Lokayukta Bill on the lines of Team Anna’s Jan Lokpal Bill, it remains to be seen whether its power will be maintained—it would have to incorporate the Centre’s Lokayukta provisions
There is still time to cheer Uttarakhand’s strong Lokayukta Bill for two reasons. One, it is still to get the Central government’s approval before it becomes effective. Two, as per the assurances of the Central government to Team Anna, there would be a provision for Lokayuktas in every state in the Lokpal Bill. If so, then its provisions of Lokayukta in its Lokpal Bill would overrule any state government’s Bill. So, it remains to be seen whether Uttarakhand’s Bill would be the trendsetter or whether it would be diluted (in case of a weak Lokpal Bill at the Centre).
Uttarakhand’s Lokayukta Bill which is almost on similar lines as that of Team Anna’s Jan Lokpal Bill has been welcomed by the team. Its website www.indiaagainstcorruption.org points out that the Central government has been hesitant to include the Judiciary but the Uttarakhand Lokayukta has included the lower Judiciary; while the Central government is reluctant to include the lower bureaucracy, Uttarakhand’s Act has included the entire bureaucracy—both lower & higher; while the Central government is reluctant to include MPs and the PM under the Bill; Uttarakhand has included the CM, all ministers and all MLAs, while the Central government is reluctant about including the Citizen’s Charter which would decide the timeframe of work and Uttarakhand has treated any violation of the Citizen’s Charter as an act of corruption; the selection process of Lokayukta members would be transparent and through public consultations as envisaged by the Jan Lokpal Bill and so on.
States Arvind Kejriwal, the prime mover of the Jan Lokpal Bill, “The passage of the Jan Lokayukta Act in the assembly of Uttarakhand is a revolutionary step towards fighting graft. We welcome it. We would like to congratulate Chief Minister BC Khanduri and principal secretary Kottia for being instrumental in this development.”
These are the reasons that Mr Kejriwal states why the Uttarakhand move will be effective:
Why is Uttarakhand’s Lokayukta Bill strong?
* When implemented, Uttarakhand’s Lokayukta will function independently of the government and will also have independent financial and functional powers. It will have an independent investigation wing and until such a wing is constituted, the state government will provide investigation officers and other staff from the state vigilance department to carry out the investigations.
* It will also have a separate prosecution wing under the Director of Prosecution in order to prosecute any “public servants in relation to any complaint under this Act.
Once the prosecution is approved by the Lokayukta, necessary steps would be taken to prosecute the public servant under rules of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988.
*A timeframe has also been provided for completion of investigation and trials for corruption. As per the Act, “Every investigating officer shall endeavour to complete the investigation of an offence within a period of six months but when necessary he may obtain extension of time from a Bench of the Lokayukta. The period of investigation as far as possible shall not extend beyond twelve months.
* Also, the Special Court is required to hold the trial of an offence on a day-to-day basis and not grant adjournment as far as possible. Thus, it overrules the rules of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, in this regard. The sanction for prosecution too “would not be referred to the government’’ once the Lokayukta makes the decision to do so.
As for investigation or prosecution against the Chief Minister of Uttarakhand, other ministers and MLAs, permission of the chairperson of the Lokayukta would be mandatory. However, for government servants, “after completion of investigation in any case involving an act of corruption, (the) Lokayukta shall have the power to recommend punishment of dismissal, removal or reduction in rank against government servants after giving them full opportunities of being heard. The recommendations shall be binding to the appointing/disciplinary authority of the Government. While recommending any action, the Lokayukta will duly consider distinction between bonafide action and action with malafide intention and also judgement of error with and without ill-motive.’’
So, what would be the punishment for corrupt public servants? “For any act of corruption, the punishment shall not be less than six months of rigorous imprisonment and may extend up to imprisonment of 10 years. In the rarest of rare case, the punishment may extend up to imprisonment for life. The Special Court may take into consideration the higher rank of an accused person to inflict a more severe punishment.’’
The Lokayukta will also have powers to issue directions to transfer or suspend a government servant from official positions in case it feels that he is “likely to destroy or tamper with evidence or influence the witnesses or is likely to continue with corruption.’’ Besides, the Lokayukta will have the power to recommend cancellation or modification of a lease, license, permission, contract or agreement in case the director of any company who conducts business with government departments has been found guilty of corruption. The Lokayukta will also give an appropriate hearing to the public servant who is under scrutiny for corruption.
Surely, such a strong law would work towards making members of the Executive, Legislature and Judiciary to be wary of indulging in corruption. The ball, however, is in the UPA court.
(Vinita Deshmukh is consulting editor of Moneylife. She is also an RTI activist and convener of the Pune Metro Jagruti Abhiyaan. She can be reached at [email protected]).