Himachal assembly passes Lokayukta Bill

Shimla: The Himachal Pradesh Assembly today passed the HP Lokayukta Bill, 2012, in the amended form with incorporation of an additional clause, empowering Lokayukta with powers of contempt of court at par with the High Court. The passage of the Bill was smooth as the entire Congress opposition which had staged a walkout during the question hour did not participate in the debate.

Replying to the debate, Chief Minister P K Dhumal, who had introduced the Bill in the house on Wednesday, asserted that Himachal Lokayukta bill was "more strong and constitutional" as compared to Uttarakhand Lokayukta Bill. Drawing a comparison between the Himachal and Uttarakhand Bills, Dhumal said that the "Uttarakhand Bill is weak and has not been given assent by the President so far due to some legal hitches but our Bill is fully constitutional, comprehensive and stronger".

The Uttarakhand Bill covers only the officers posted in the state but Himachal Bill covers all officers, he added. Referring to the suggestions of Khushi Ram Balnatah (BJP) that societies and other registered bodies should also be brought within the ambit of the Bill, the Chief Minister said that it can be considered and notified later.

The Bill aimed at curbing corruption among public servants covers all officials` right from Chief Minister to Panchayat members and complaints could also be file against the elected members of Panchayati Raj institutions and Urban local bodies. Besides the Lokayukta, who would be a retired Supreme Court Judge of Chief Justice of High Court, there would be two Up-lokayukts (deputy Lokayukta).

The Bill would replace the Lokayukta Act, 1983, which had not been found to be effective, and bring the public servants indulging in corruption to justice. The power to initiate an enquiry against Chief Minister, ministers, CPSs, MLAs and officers of the rank of Secretary and above and heads of the Department would vest in Lokayukta but no action would be initiated without the permission of Full Bench of Lokayukta.

Further, the enquiry, investigations and prosecution shall continue in case the complainant dies and no complaint shall be allowed to be withdrawn unless the Lokayukta is fully satisfied that the complainant had made a bonafide mistake.

However, the prosecution sanction in case of the Chief Minister would be accorded by the state Assembly, against MLAs by the Speaker and against Ministers, officers of the rank of secretary to the government and above and heads of the department would be given by the Chief Minister.