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Himachal to grant more autonomy to Lokayukta

Posted on Feb 19 2014 | IANS

Shimla, Feb 19 : Himachal Pradesh Wednesday took a lead in strengthening the Lokayukta by making the ombudsman a multi-member panel, giving the power to conduct searches, seize property and to have independent inquiry and prosecution wings.

Introducing the Himachal Pradesh Lokayukta Bill of 2014 in the assembly, Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh said it was expedient to provide independent and autonomous Himachal Lokayukta on the analogy of the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act of 2013 enacted by the central government.

The 38-page bill, introduced in the absence of the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, brings even the chief minister within its purview. Lokayukta jurisdiction will cover all categories of public servants, posted within and outside the state.

"It's expedient to re-enact the Himachal Pradesh Lokayukta Act of 2014 by repealing the existing Himachal Pradesh Lokayukta Bill of 1983," said the chief minister.

From the existing one-member Lokayukta, the bill proposes a provision of a three-member body, comprising a chairperson and a maximum of two members, of which one shall be a judicial person.

"The Lokayukta will constitute an inquiry wing headed by the director of inquiry for conducting preliminary probe into any offence committed by a public servant," says the bill, which will now be taken up for discussion Friday.

The inquiry wing will have all the powers of a civil court like summoning any person and requisitioning any public record.

The prosecution wing, headed by the director of prosecution, after having been so directed by the Lokayukta, can file a case before a special court.

"The government shall constitute such number of special courts as recommended by the Lokayukta to hear and decide the cases. The courts will ensure completion of each trial within one year," says the bill.

The bill also incorporates provisions for attachment and confiscation of property acquired by corrupt means till the completion of investigation.

The Lokayukta, on receipt of complaint, will complete preliminary inquiry within 90 days.

"In case the Lokayukta decides to proceed to investigate into the complaint, it shall direct any agency to carry out the investigation and it will be completed within six months," it says.

However, the Lokayukta shall not inquire into any complaint against the chairperson and members. But its officials come under the purview of the proposed act.

The bill proposes that if any public servant is convicted of an offence under the Prevention of Corruption Act, the Lokayukta may make an assessment of loss caused to the public exchequer.

"It may order recover of such loss from such public servant so convicted."

The Lokayukta shall not inquire or investigate into any compliant if it is made after the expiry of seven years from the date when the offence is committed, it says.

In order to discourage frivolous complaints, the bill proposes an imprisonment up to one year and a fine up to Rs.100,000.

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