The Maharashtra Legislative Assembly on Wednesday passed the Maharashtra Lokayukta Bill, 2022 without debate in the absence of the opposition. The opposition had staged a walkout to protest against the state government’s attempt to protect the minister Mr Abdul Sattar in the alleged TET scam. The Lokayukta will be empowered to investigate even the state’s Chief Minister and members of the Council of Ministers if two-thirds of the Assembly votes for such an inquiry. The bill was passed by voice vote.
The Deputy Chief Minister Mr Devendra Fadnavis termed the new Act historic. He said, ‘’Maharashtra is the first state to pass the Lokayukta Bill. I thank this House for unanimously passing the Lokayukta Bill. In fact, it would have been more enjoyable if the opposition members had been present. We had also discussed this bill with the opposition. If so, the consensus on this bill could have been shown more properly."
"On this occasion, I would like to point out that after the introduction of the Lokpal Act by the Central Government, it was expected that the states should pass the Lokayukta Act on the same lines. Senior social worker Anna Hazare went on a fast for this. Then I and Girish Mahajan went to Anna Hazare and assured him that the Maharashtra government will prepare a Lokayukta Act as you expect," said Mr Fadnavis.
"Anna Hazare demanded that he should be taken into confidence while passing the bill. Therefore, the government formed a high-level committee. That committee consisted of Anna Hazare and other members suggested by him. Meetings were held to finalize the draft. Also, we accepted all the changes suggested by that committee," he noted.
Present or former CM can be probed, says Lokayukta bill
According to the Bill, any present or former Chief Minister of Maharashtra can be investigated by the Lokayukta if a motion for such a probe is passed by the Legislative Assembly by a two-thirds majority. However, the Lokayukta will not inquire into any charges of corruption against the Chief Minister if the matter relates to internal security or public order in the state. 'The Lokayukta may investigate complaints against the Chief Minister, ministers, ministers of state, members of the Maharashtra State Legislature, All India Services officers, State Government employees (excluding Group D), members of local authorities, officers and employees of the Board, Corporation, Authority or Society, wholly or partly financed by the State Government or controlled by the Government,’ the Bill said.
The Lokayukta consists of five members with a retired chief justice of a high court or a retired justice of the Supreme Court or the Bombay High Court as chairperson and four other members, two of whom have to be judicial members. The Lokayukta will have two benches.
The bill proposes to allow the Governor to give additional functions to Lokayukta with the aim of attacking corruption.
Powers accorded to Lokayukta
The Lokayukta bench will be as powerful as a civil court and will be able to direct the Government to file a charge sheet before a special court in corruption matters.
It can also conduct a preliminary inquiry into any corruption case before a government agency and supervise state agencies tackling corruption cases.
Further, the Lokayukta will have powers of superintendence and can issue directions to state agencies to probe cases. It can also recommend a departmental inquiry and make a special report and submit it to the Government for action.
Penal action against person who holds Lokayukta in contempt
It is also empowered to take penal action. A person insulting or causing interruption to the chairperson or a member of the Lokayukta can be punished with a maximum of six months in jail and/or fine.
In case of false and vexatious complaints, the Lokayukta may impose a penalty of up to Rs2 lakh but only after hearing the person.
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