Gujarat passes new Lokayukta Bill

A new bill cleared by the Gujarat Assembly on Tuesday has triggered a political controversy amid walk out by the Congress.The contentious Lokayukta Commission Bill, 2013, was cleared on the last day of the session. The Bill envisages drastic overhaul of the appointment procedure for the state Lokayukta.

The Bill proposes to eliminate the role of the governor and chief justice from the selection procedure. Chief Minister Narendra Modi government has been on a collision course with the governor who had appointed retired judge Justice R A Mehta as the state Lokayukta bypassing the government. Gujarat had moved the SC against the appointment but its plea was rejected.

An unrelenting state government later filed a review petition and now it has come up with a new Bill.

As per the Bill, the selection process will not have the governor and the high court chief justice. It will now comprise the chief minister, a minister, Assembly speaker, leader of the opposition, a high court judge and the state vigilance commissioner. There’s also the provision for appointing four deputy Lokayuktas.

The Lokayukta will have to seek permission from the government before acting on a complaint and its report won’t be binding on the government.

Legal experts point out elimination of the role of high court chief justice will impact the neutrality of the ombudsman. Legal expert, Girish Patel said: “The new bill violates the primacy given to the opinion of the chief justice as also laid down by the Supreme Court. Secondly, it will be a government appointee and I do not think it will work as a watchdog of the government.’’

BJP defends Modi govt on legislation

The BJP on Tuesday came out in support of Narendra Modi government for passing the Lokayukta Aayog Bill 2013 which keeps the governor out in the appointment process of the anti-corruption ombudsman. The BJP, however, denied the charges of the opposition on the grounds that the bill seeks to create a multi-member Lokayukta on the suggestion of the central government.

Describing the move as “setting examples for good governance”, the party said Modi has put the chief minister also under the ambit of the anti-corruption body.

Source: AHMEDABAD, April  2013, DHNS

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