Bhubaneswar, Jan 3:
Under fire for failing to meet its December 2012 promise to enact a Lokayukta Bill in the state ‘within three months’, the Naveen Patnaik government on Friday announced that it would enact the law in this regard in one month’s time.
Making the announcement after the cabinet meeting at the state secretariat this morning, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik said the Chief Minister and the other members of the council of ministers would come under the purview of the proposed Lokayukta Act.
As part of its commitment to transparency and probity in public life, the state government had taken a decision to enact the new law within a month even though it had a ‘window’ of one full year after the enactment of the Lokpal Act by parliament in December last year, Patnaik said.
“Our government has always taken tough, effective and exemplary action against corruption. We have left no stone unturned to bring in greater transparency in public life,” the Chief Minister said citing the Special Courts Act and the Public Services Act to prove his point. The state government has been a ‘pioneer in the country’ when it comes to fighting corruption, he claimed.
Incidentally, the announcement comes hours after the Union cabinet decided to refer the Justice MB Shah Commission report, which has severely indicted both the state and Central governments and recommended a CBI probe into the massive mining scam in the state, to a committee of secretaries.
The announcement by the Chief Minister has raised eyebrows in knowledgeable circles here since it was made in Bhubaneswar, where the model code of conduct is currently in force in view of the BMC polls scheduled for January 8.
It may be noted that the Chief Minister had made the announcement about the Rs 100 per quintal bonus for paddy farmers affected by Cyclone Phailin in faraway Bargarh recently though the decision had already been taken at the cabinet meeting here the previous day, presumably to avoid violation of the code of conduct. In fact, the customary post-cabinet briefing by the chief secretary had been dispensed with precisely on this ground.
In this backdrop, the Chief Minister’s announcement about the proposed Lokayukta Act in the state capital is bound to raise questions as to whether it violates the code.
If such a question is indeed raised, the likely response could be the announcement about Lokayukta Bill does not constitute a violation of the code.