Current Affairs

Goa government passes toothless Lokayukta Bill

The Goa state legislative assembly passed the Goa Lokayukta (First Amendment) Bill 2013 ~accepting the 16A ‘deemed rejected’ clause and fines of upto Rs 10 lakh and three years in prison for frivolous complaints ~amidst a walkout by the Opposition benches, and independent legislator Vijai Sardessai after a brief discussion of the issue. The amendments were stoutly defended by Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar.  The bill was passed after the leader of the Opposition led the walkout. 

When the bill was moved for consideration, Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar launched an onslaught against those criticizing the amendments to the bill saying that people have been criticizing the bill without studying it properly.

“When we go to make amendments to make the bill stronger, people including the learned, and learned journalists criticize the bill without studying it properly,” Parrikar said, arguing, “Even educated people are commenting without studying the matter.”  However, the Opposition was not willing to buy his arguments.

Referring to the amendment of 16A, Parrikar said the addition of the clause made it mandatory for the Lokayukta to make a declaration that the public functionary has to resign.

“It is a positive addition. Earlier there was no need to declare (that a public functionary has to be asked to vacate office). Here he has to make a special report, there he could make a general report. Here also there is also a provision for (a) general report,” Parrikar said trying to explain what section 16A is about.

“The section will be termed unconstitutional if I write ‘the chief minister or minister shall resign’. Because according to section 164 of the Constitution ‘the chief minister shall be appointed by the governor and the other ministers shall be appointed by the governor on the advice of the chief minister, and the ministers shall hold office during the pleasure of the governor’. A law cannot supersede the Constitution; a chief minister cannot be removed through an Act,” Parrikar said seeking to explain the thinking behind the words that a chief minister or minister ‘may resign’ if indicted by a Lokayukta.

On the other amendment – 19A, Parrikar contended that the increase in penalty was to keep pace with inflation, and that the section was necessary in order that politicians have some protection against false complaints.  However, the Opposition Congress, was of a different opinion. “Even if it is one rupee, it is more than enough. So that even common man can put a case.”

Parrikar sought to stress on the provisions of the amendment which leaves the decision to fine or not in the hands of the Lokayukta, and further that if a public functionary wants to file a case against a complainant in a court, a court cannot take cognizance against a complainant unless there is prior sanction from the Lokayukta.

Demands from the Opposition to reduce the penalties, were not heeded to by the chief minister, who went on to say that if he agreed with the Opposition, he would come across as a coward.

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