The Maharashtra legislative assembly on Wednesday passed the Lokayukta Bill 2022, which brings the chief minister and the council of ministers under the ambit of the anti-corruption ombudsman.
IMAGE: Nationalist Congress Party MLAs stage a demonstration against the Maharashtra government outside Vidhan Bhavan during the Winter Session of the state assembly, in Nagpur, December 27, 2022. Photograph: ANI Photo
The bill was passed without discussion as the Opposition had staged a walkout over the alleged scam in the Teachers’ Eligibility Test.
Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis termed the bill a historic legislation, adding that Maharashtra is the first state to have such a law.
Fadnavis, who is also the state Home Minister, said discussion had taken place on the bill with the opposition.
“The chief minister and (council of) ministers were not part of the earlier Lokayukta law. The governor could only recommend action against any minister. Now, the chief minister, ministers and public representatives have been brought under the ambit of Lokayukta,” he said.
As per the draft bill, prior approval of the assembly has to be obtained and the motion has to be placed before the immediate session of the House before initiating any inquiry against the chief minister.
Such a motion shall be passed by not less than two-thirds of the total members of the assembly, states the bill, which was tabled in the House on Monday.
Fadnavis said after the Centre passed a law on Lokpal, it was expected that all state governments formulate a legislation on the same lines.
He said when he was the chief minister from 2014-19, he had assured anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare that a Lokayukta law would be brought in on the lines of what was expected by him.
A committee was formed with Hazare and his representatives with him. The panel suggested changes in the draft. The Prevention of Corruption Act was not part of the earlier Lokayukta 1971 Act and it only had powers to make recommendations, he said.
On the appointment of the ombudsman, the draft law states the Lokayukta shall consist of a chairperson who is or has been the Chief Justice of the High Court, a judge of the Supreme Court or a judge of the Bombay high court.
“…Such number of members, not exceeding four out of whom, two shall be judicial members,” it said.
The selection committee for the appointment of members and the chairperson will comprise the chief minister, deputy chief minister, speaker of the Legislative Assembly, chairperson of the Legislative Council, the Leaders of Opposition in the Assembly and Council and the chief justice of the Bombay high court or a judge nominated by the CJ.
“No appointment of the chairperson or a member shall be invalid merely by reason of any vacancy in the selection committee,” the draft bill said.