The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Bill to nail leaders on graft

Calcutta, July 15: The Assembly today passed a bill to set up a body to investigate complaints of corruption made by citizens against elected representatives.

Legislators, the cabinet and even the chief minister will be under the scope of the investigation. The Supreme Court had earlier observed that every state and the Union should establish an institution of lokayukta to investigate complaints made by common people.

The bill was framed after the apex court sought information on the action taken by the state government in this regard.

Explaining the bill, titled West Bengal Lokayukta Bill 2001, law and judicial affairs minister Nisith Adhikary said there should be a platform where the common people can express grievances against public functionaries. “We are about to take a historic step. Public functionaries are accountable to the people,” he said.

The minister added that there was no such complaint against public functionaries in the state. But, the lokayukta had to be set up so that complaints against elected representatives were not suppressed. “While drawing up the bill, we have scrutinised the laws followed in other states and abroad,” he said.

According to the bill, a person making a false complaint will be fined and face imprisonment between three months and a year. The lokayukta may investigate any complaint against a public functionary with the general or specific approval of, or at the instance of a competent authority. If the complaint is against the chief minister, the competent authority will be the governor, who will act in consultation with the Speaker of the Assembly.

The chief minister will act in case of a complaint against a minister and the Speaker will act if there is a complaint against an MLA. The competent authority for any other public functionary will be as prescribed. Every investigation by the lokayukta shall be completed within a year.

“The lokayukta can, after an investigation, take a maximum action of removing the public functionary from his post and if it is found that the complaint is genuine and criminal in nature, action will be taken against him or her according to the existing provisions of law,” said Adhikary.

The bill also empowers the lokayukta or his deputy to direct an officer or government investigating agency, including police, to assist in the investigation. They will be bound to comply with such a direction.

“The lokayukta or his deputy will give the public functionary concerned an opportunity to offer his comments on the complaint and may make such order as to the safe custody of documents relevant to the investigation as he deems fit,” says the Bill.

The lokayukta will have the powers of a civil court while trying a suit under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, in respect of summoning or enforcing the attendance of a person and examining him, production of a document, receiving evidence on affidavits and requisitioning public records. After investigation, the lokayukta will send recommendations to the competent authority.

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