Uttarakhand Lokayukta Bill, 2011 is discriminatory

Dehradun: A day after the Uttarakhand cabinet approved the draft of a Lokayukta bill, a leading NGO in the state today alleged that its key provisions were "discriminatory". The Uttarakhand Lokayukta Bill, 2011, which is a mixture of various drafts like Anna Hazare`s version of the Lokpal bill, is likely to be tabled tomorrow in the state Assembly when the session resumes after a month-ling recess.

Among other provisions, the Bill has brought the post of the Chief Minister, all ministers, MLAs and government servants, including IAS and IPS officers, within its ambit with a provision of life imprisonment or more severe punishment.

Avadash Kaushal, chairperson of RLEK, a Dehradun-based NGO which specialises in legal matters, claimed that prosecution of MLAs, ministers and chief ministers is "highly impossible" since the government has kept a clause of obtaining permission from all members of the Lokayukta, including chairman, for investigation and prosecution.

"This above stated provision is highly impossible when the situation arises. It means that if any of the members of the Lokayukta is not favouring the investigation and prosecution against the high functionaries then the investigation will not take place," Kaushal, a Padma Shri awardee, said.

"This bill is fully discriminatory and unconstitutional because before the law everyone is equal," he said. Also, while lower judiciary will be covered under the Lokayukta, judges of the Uttarakhand High Court will not be under its purview.

While questioning the wisdom of ignoring the High Court on the issue of removal of the Lokayukta through a provision that Lokayukta and its members can only be removed on the recommendations of the Supreme Court, Kaushal asked, "Since Lokayukta is state subject, then why to go to Supreme Court when the High Court already exists in the state?" he asked.

Kaushal said the bill should not be passed in haste and instead should be referred to a standing committee for further discussions. As per the Bill, former chief ministers, former ministers and retired officers will also be under the purview of the Lokayukta, which would consist of a chairperson and five members with a scope of increasing the number to seven as per the need and requirement.

The term of the chairperson would be five years or upto the age of 70 years whichever is earlier. After completion of investigations, the charge sheet will be filed by the Lokayukta in a special court established under the Prevention of Corruption Act for a speedy trial. The period of investigation as far as possible would not be more than 12 months. The Lokayukta will also have the power to recommend punishment of dismissal, removal or reduction in rank against government servants.

The recommendation shall be binding on the appointing or disciplinary authority of the government. For any act of corruption, the punishment shall not be less than six months of rigorous imprisonment and may extend upto the imprisonment of ten years. In the rarest of rare case, the punishment may be extended upto life imprisonment under the provisions of the bill.