New 'diluted' Lokayukta Bill introduced in Gujarat Assembly

Last Updated: Tue, Apr 02, 2013 13:30 hrs

Gandhinagar: The Narendra Modi government today introduced a new Lokayukta bill in the Assembly which curtails the primacy of the Governor and Chief Justice of the High Court in appointment of the anti-corruption ombudsman in Gujarat.

The Lokayukta Aayog Bill, 2013, which was introduced two years after Governor Kamala Beniwal returned an amendment bill, proposes to give all the powers of the appointment to a selection committee headed by Chief Minister and wants the Governor to act on its recommendations. The Chief Justice virtually has no role under the new bill.

In the existing Gujarat Lokayukta Act, 1986, power of selection and consequent appointment of new Lokayukta has been vested with the Governor and the Chief Justice.

The Gujarat Lokayukta (Amendment) Bill 2011 was passed by the assembly in March 2011, but returned by the Governor for reconsideration.

In New Delhi, BJP spokesperson Nirmala Sitharaman said the new Bill has not take away any powers of the Governor.

The new Bill came close on the heels of the state government losing a bitter fight legally and politically when Kamla Beniwal, bypassing the state government, appointed Justice R A Mehta as the state Lokayukta which was upheld by the High Court as well as Supreme Court in January this year.

The Apex Court ruled "primacy" of the opinion of the Chief Justice in the Lokayukta Act was final.

The Gujarat government on the one hand filed curative petition against the Supreme Court order and on the other, has brought this Bill in the Assembly today.

"For the purpose of conducting investigations and inquiries in accordance with the provisions of this Act, the Governor shall, by warrant under his hand and seal and, on the recommendations of a Selection Committee as provided below, appoint a person to be known as the Lokayukta and not more than four other persons each to be known as Up-Lokayuktas," reads the proposed section 3 of the Bill.

The new Bill also proposed a special provision which gives pivotal power to the state government in excluding any 'public functionaries' from the jurisdiction of the Lokayukta.

As per another significant provision (Sec 12(8)), whoever discloses to the public or to the press any information or publishes such information in contravention of the provisions of this section should invite two years' imprisonment and also a fine of Rs two lakhs.

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