Lokayukta Bill referred to State Law Commission

Lokayukta Bill referred to State Law Commission

Suggestions to be sought from experts before it is redrafted

After facing widespread criticism, the government has referred the Lokayukta Bill, 2014, to the Karnataka State Law Commission which will soon invite suggestions from various experts, including former judges, before redrafting the controversial bill, sources said.

The State Cabinet had hurriedly cleared the Lokayukta Bill during the legislature session in February 2014. Claiming it to be on the lines of the Lokpal Bill, the government had attempted to scuttle away all the powers presently vested with the Lokayukta and the Lokayukta police. The bill had proposed to create a nine-member bench of Lokayukta and setting up a State Vigilance Commission headed by a retired or serving All India Service officer.

The move was severely criticised as the Lokpal Act recommended this pattern only in states which did not have Lokayukta Act. The government’s move to refer the bill to the Law Commission has raised many an eyebrow among social activists.
Former Lokayukta Justice (retd) N Santosh Hegde said the bill that was cleared last time had diluted existing powers of the institution.

“One of the important provisions of present Lokayukta Act is to address the maladministration issues. During my stint as the Lokayukta, over 20,000 complaints pertaining to maladministration were resolved. I am sure the number of such complaints is on the rise.

 The bill had snatched this power and instead included a nine-judge bench of Lokayukta and a vigilance which will clear each complaint before assigning the investigation to the Lokayukta police.

All these points and many more will have to be debated if the State government wants to redraft the bill,” Justice Hegde said.

Consider public view
Social activist S R Hiremath, who had opposed the introduction of the bill, said public should be allowed this time to submit their views. “Lokayukta Act in Karnataka is one of the best in the country. When there was severe criticism on its first attempt to secretly table the bill, the government is trying to come back with the same bill.

In my opinion, the debate should be on strengthening the Lokayukta rather than reducing it to a toothless organisation. “This way, the bill before the Law Commission is of wide public importance and hence people must write their views,” Hiremath said.

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