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Niranjan calls for debate on Lokayukta Bill

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OST Bureau

Bhubaneswar, Jan 4:

Former Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) president and senior Congress leader Niranjan Patnaik on Friday demanded a statewide public debate before the Lokayukta Bill is enacted.

In a letter to Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, the senior Congress leader demanded that the Bill should be kept in the public domain for informed debate on its crucial provisions before it is introduced in the Assembly.Niranjan-Patnaik

While welcoming the “belated announcement” by the Chief Minister to enact the Lokayukta legislation in Odisha, the Congress leader said the state Government hardly had a choice since a Lokayukta had to be created within one year as mandated by the Lokpal Act passed by the parliament recently.

“After going through the Odisha Police Bill, 2013, which has been introduced in the state Legislature by you, there is well-founded apprehension that the Lokayukta Bill may turn out to be another eye-wash like the Police Bill and you may try to bulldoze the Bill through the legislature without adequate public debate by taking advantage of the brute majority that your Party enjoys in the State Assembly.”

Among the specific aspects of the proposed Bill on which the former minister sought clarifications were the manner of appointment and removal of Lokayukta , the constitution of the collegium for selection of the Lokayukta and whether the Vigilance wing would come under Lokayukta’s control.

Patnaik also wanted to know whether the   state Vigilance will be brought under the control of the Lokayukta, as the CBI has been brought under the Lokapal by the Central Government, for the purposes of investigation referred to the State Vigilance by the Lokayukta.

In particular, the former PCC chief sought clarity on whether the State Vigilance Chief will be selected by a Collegium consisting of the Chief Minister, the Leader of the Opposition and the Chief Justice of the High Court as has been done in case of the CBI Director by the UPA Government?

Patnaik also wanted to know whether the State Vigilance Chief, like the CBI Director, will have a minimum tenure of two years irrespective of retirement and promotion and the manner of intervention by the Lokayukta in cases where the State Government delays prosecution sanction.

“All of us are aware the way in which the State Vigilance is used as a tool by the State Government and its behavior as a ‘caged parrot’. Now that the central Government has released the CBI substantially from its control, it is time for the States to walk the talk,” Ptanaik said in his letter.

Citing the fate of the Lokpal findings on the Vedanta University land grab case, the senior Congress leader said there is no point in having an institution called by a new name as Lokayukta, if it is to be as powerless and toothless as the Lokpal.