The Tamil Nadu Assembly on Monday adopted a bill for the appointment of a Lok Ayukta to go into corruption complaints against Ministers, including Chief Minister, and officials after the DMK-led opposition walked out in protest against its demand to refer it to a select committee.
The House adopted the bill on the last day of the session to meet the July 10 set by the Supreme Court to the Government to file an action taken report. Replying to the debate, Fisheries Minister D Jayakumar said the Lok Ayukta had a wide ambit in that it go into complaints against Chief Minister, Ministers, MLAs and officials. However, no enquiry can be instituted against Central Government officials without clearance from the Union Government.
He said the Lok Ayukta had power to initiate suo motu action against anybody suspected of wrongdoing. Even the Lok Ayukta could be investigated against if there were complaints against him, the Minister said.
The bill provides for Lok Ayukta who will be a high court judge or a man with at least 25 years of administrative experience. Of the four members to be inducted into the institution, two should be from the judiciary.
If any of the nominated members is holding any office of profit, he should relinquish it before accepting the position.
On receipt of a complaint, the Lok Ayukta can refer it to the Directorate of Vigilance and Anti-Corruption to see if there is a prima facie substance in it. All enquiries should be completed within six months
The Lok Ayukta also has power to recommend suspension or transfer of any public servant coming under its scrutiny.
As the Chief Minister and the Ministers are also public servants, the bill stipulates it can only recommend suspension or transfer or suspension those under its scanner. In other words, the Government will have the last word on this.
Welcoming the bill in principle, DMK working president and Leader of the Opposition M K Stalin the bill in its present form would make way for a ‘toothless” Lok Ayukta institution and suggested some amendments and pressed to refer to the select committee for a detailed consideration.
Pointing out the flaws in the bill, he said the ombudsman will not have power to go into irregularities in award of tenders and government appointments. Likewise, the ombudsman cannot go into complaints to chairmen of local bodies.
He also said the bill says the Lok Ayukta can go into complaints against Ministers, including Chief Minister. Instead, he suggested that the provision be amended to read ”Chief Minister and other Ministers” to make it more explicit.
Taking exception to the provision that those giving false complaints can be sent to jail for up to one year and a fine of up to Rs 1 lakh, Stalin said it would deter complainants who even otherwise they have no protection.
The bill provides for appointment of the Lok Ayukta by a committee comprising the Chief Minister, the Assembly Speaker and the Leader of the Opposition. As the Government is in majority, he feared that the suggestion of the Leader of the Opposition can be disregarded. To make the panel balanced, he suggested inclusion of a high court judge.
As the Government did not accept any of his suggestion, including the main demand to refer the bill to a select committee for a detailed consideration, Stalin led the DMK men out of the House.
Members of the alliance parties, the Congress and the Indian Union Muslim also walked out in support of his demand.