Bengal passes Lokayukta amendment, CM outside ambit on public order issues

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Kolkata, July 26 (IANS) The West Bengal Assembly on Thursday gave its approval to the Lokayukta (Amendment) Bill, 2018, which keeps the Chief Minister beyond its ambit with regard to allegations of corruption in matters concerned with public order.

According to the legislation, the Lokayukta can investigate allegations of corruption against the Chief Minister on 58 of the 59 subjects on the state list, but only after a nod by two-third members of the House present and voting.

Just before the Bill was passed, ruling Trinamool Congress legislator Tapas Roy moved the amendment – which was passed by the House – adding the clause about the Lokayukta needing the pre-approval of the House to start an investigation on corruption allegations against the chief minister.

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The debate was heated, with the opposition resenting the two clauses – the Chief Minister being kept outside the purview of the Lokayukta on matters of public order and the pre-requisite for the Lokayukta to get the approval of two-third members of the House present and voting before starting a probe into allegations against the Chief Minister on other matters.

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, however, claimed that she had given the people the right to question her credibility.

Alleged that the opposition and a section of the media were creating confusion by claiming that the Chief Minister has been kept entirely outside the purview of the Lokayukta bill, she said exclusion of the office of the Chief Minister on maters of public order only pertained to police recruitment, force deployment and any other emergency situation.

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“Other subjects in the state list are within the ambit of the Lokayukta. I feel credentials are the biggest assets of a politician. Let the people of the state judge my credentials,” she said.

The legislation claimed that the clauses related to excluding the Chief Minister were in line with the provisions under section 41 (1) (a) of the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013 passed by parliament. The particular section of the Central Act refers to excluding Prime Minister from the purview of investigation of Lokpal.

The Bill passed by the assembly on Thursday also includes a provision that approval of the state government would be needed for investigating a complaint against a public servant.

Leader of the Left Front legislature party Sujan Chakraborty alleged that the amendments have diluted the powers of the Lokayukta.

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The Bill was later passed by voice vote.

–IANS

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