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Civil society submits memo to CM on Lokayukta Bill; calls for wide debate

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OST Bureau

Bhubaneswar, Jan 20:

Civil society groups, under the banner of Odisha Lokayukta Abhijan (OLA), on Monday submitted a draft of the proposed Odisha Lokayukta Bill, 2014 prepared by them to chief minister Naveen Patnaik and urged him to initiate a public debate and invite constructive suggestions to make the bill foolproof.

(pic : accracitytimes.com)
(pic : accracitytimes.com)

The draft framework of the proposed bill, prepared by civil society organizations at a consultation held at Red Cross Bhawan here on January 18, suggests that the state Lokayukta should comprise a chairman, along with a minimum of four other members hailing from both judicial and non-judicial backgrounds, to be chosen by a 5-member selection committee consisting of the chief minister as chairman and Opposition leader, Speaker of the Assembly, Chief Justice of the Odisha High Court and another eminent jurist as members.

The government should form a 7-member search committee to provide it with a panel of names from which the chairperson and members of Lokayukta would be selected.

Both the Lokayukta and the search committee constituted by it should have 50 percent of their membership drawn from SC, ST, OBC, minority and women, the draft framework of the proposed bill has suggested.

It has also proposed that the chairperson or a member of Lokayukta can be removed from his/her post if at least 35 MLAs or any person by way of an affidavit level an allegation against any of them before the governor and the veracity of the allegation so made is established through an enquiry made by the state High Court.

The state Lokayukta should have two separate wings for preliminary inquiry and prosecution. The directors of these two wings shall be appointed from a panel of names comprising both official and non-official professionals.

The state government shall bear all expenditures of the Lokayukta from its Consolidated Fund.

The draft framework provides for the Lokayukta’s obligation to receive complaints of corruption against any minister, including the chief minister, and all officers and employees.

However, in the absence of a statutory body like Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) in Odisha, the Lokayukta should have complaints of corruption against any officer or employee investigated and prosecuted by the competent authorities and professional agencies under the control of the government without having to overburden the State Vigilance or its own inquiry and prosecution wings with cases against the members of lower bureaucracy.

Besides, in the absence of a Central law like Delhi Special Police Establishment Act 1946 that regulates CBI, the State Vigilance needs to be placed under the overall supervision and control of Lokayukta, it observed.

The State Vigilance would act as Lokayukta’s chief investigative agency for probe into allegations of corruption against the chief minister, ministers, MLAs and senior bureaucrats, local bodies and corporations.

The director of the State Vigilance should be chosen by a 4-member selection committee comprising the chief minister as chairman and the leader of the Opposition, Chief Justice of the Odisha High Court and chairperson Lokayukta as members.
While retaining the provision of the Central law for penalty against persons making false and frivolous complaints, the draft framework recommends additional provisions such as physical protection and monetary compensation to the vulnerable and victimized complainants, maintenance of a whistle blower cell in the Lokayukta for receiving and acting on anonymous complaints, generating awareness on Lokayukta system at grassroots level involving panchayati raj institutions (PRIs) and civil society groups, a decentralized district level arrangement for  receiving complaints from the general public and also periodic social audit of Lokayukta by the Lokayukta itself.

The consultation was convened by Pradipta Pradhan, convener of Odisha Soochana Adhikar Abhijan under the banner of Odisha Lokayukta Abhijan, which has been newly launched as an umbrella platform for the civil society to campaign for a strong and effective Lokayukta in Odisha.