Bhubaneswar, Feb. 5: The state cabinet today formally cleared a legislative proposal to set up the institution of a Lokayukta in the state — which will probe into complaints of corruption at higher places.
The proposed Lokayukta, to be headed by a sitting or retired judge of Orissa High Court, will have the powers to probe into the complaints against the chief minister, his council of ministers, all-India services officers serving the state government and all the state government employees.
Apart from the chairperson, who will be from the judiciary, there will five other members and two of them would be from the judiciary. Other three members would be drawn from public life. No member of the Lokayukta would be from the field of politics. The proposed bill, according to reliable sources, makes it clear that no MP, MLA or any elected panchayat representative could become a member of the six-member body.
Another significant provision of the bill is that the Lokayukta will have to complete its probe within a mandatory period of 90 days. After completion of its probe, the institution will be free to file the case in a designated special court.
The commission will enjoy absolute powers in terms of getting previous sanction from appropriate authorities for the prosecution of public servants. It will enjoy the power to go ahead with the prosecution. In the case of chief minsiter and his council of ministers, one has to obtain permission from the governor for prosecution. This provision has been done away with.
A committee, headed by the chief minister, will select the six members. Other committee members are Chief Justice of Orissa High Court, Assembly Speaker, the leader of Opposition and a person, to be nominated by the governor. The members will enjoy a five-year tenure with perquisites.
The legislative proposal is expected to be introduced in the Assembly during the current session. “The business advisory committee of the Assembly will fix the date and time for its introduction of the bill,” sources said.
The proposed law will also have safe guards for protecting honest officials, whistle blowers and witnesses. It has been proposed to bring the state vigilance under the purview of Lokayukta. Odisha was the first state to enact the Lokpal and Lokayukta Act in 1970, but the state had a Lokpal.
The new bill, while seeking setting up of the institution of Lokayukta, will abolish the post of Lokpal. The existing Lokpal post has been lying vacant since January 23 last after Justice Prasanna Kumar Patra, who was holding the post, passed away on January 22.
In the absence of a Lokpal in the state, the number of complaints against people in high positions has gone down during the past few months while the number of cases waiting for hearing is around 1,500.
Reacting to the move, BJP state unit president K.V. Singh Deo said: “It is just a political gimmick. They had a Lokpal, but they preferred to ignore its recommendation. As this one is the last Assembly session, they are in a hurry to do it to give a signal that they are fighting against corruption at high places.”