Gandhinagar: The Gujarat Lokayukta Bill 2013 was on Tuesday passed in the state Assembly amidst dramatic scenes of a walkout by Congress MLAs. The new law allows a six member committee headed by the Chief Minister to choose the Lokayukta.
The Congress alleges it curbs the powers of the Governor and the Chief Justice of the Gujarat High Court. The new Bill came after the state government lost a bitter fight legally and politically when Governor Kamala Beniwal, bypassing the state government, appointed Justice RA Mehta as the state Lokayukta which was upheld by the High Court as well as Supreme Court in January this year.
The apex court had ruled that "primacy" of the opinion of the Chief Justice in the Lokayukta Act was final. The existing Lokayukta Act and the Lokayukta Aayog Bill both have given power to Lokayukta to merely report their findings to competent authorities, but they have no power to take penal actions.
Leader of Opposition Shankarsinh Vaghela opposed the Bill, saying "the state government is afraid that Lokayukta Justice Mehta will expose the corruption of the government". Vaghela alleged the bill is just a delaying tactic so that they do not have to appoint Justice RA Mehta as Lokayukta.
As per the 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 the fine of Rs 2 lakh.
The bill was introduced in the Assembly by Finance Minister Nitin Patel. After a five-hour debate, when the minister began his reply, Congress MLAs started shouting slogans for withdrawal of the bill and later staged a walk out.
The Modi government brought the Bill despite filing a curative petition challenging the Supreme Court order. "For the purpose of conducting investigations and inquiries in accordance with the provisions of the Act, the Governor shall .... appoint a person to be known as the Lokayukta and not more than four other persons each to be known as Up-Lokayuktas," the Bill said, adding, "...Provided that the Lokayukta shall be appointed after consultation with the Chief Justice of High Court."
The Bill says the selection committee comprises six members. The chief minister would be its Chairperson, while Speaker of the Assembly, a minister nominated by the chief minister, Leader of the Opposition and Vigilance Commissioner of the state would be the members.
For inclusion of a member from the judicial side, the Bill proposes that the selection committee shall also comprise "one judge of the High Court of Gujarat, to be nominated by the Chief Justice of the HC in consultation with the collegiums of five senior judges."
The Bill proposes to make the Lokayukta Aayog a multi-member body as it will have up to four up-Lokayuktas apart from one Lokayukta.
Apart from the council of ministers, the Bill proposes to bring all public functionaries and office bearers of all local self-government bodies, including municipal corporations, municipalities, and boards and corporations of the state government under its ambit.
The Bill also proposes a special provision which gives pivotal power to the state government in excluding any 'public functionaries' from the jurisdiction of the Lokayukta.
With Additional Inputs From PTI