Khanduri's Lokayukta to be repealed: Congress

Dehradun: The ruling Congress in Uttarakhand on Tuesday said the Lokayukta Act enacted during the previous BJP regime in the state would be repealed and an anti-graft ombudsman on the lines of the Centre's Lokpal would be created. "A Lokayukta modelled on the Centre's Lokpal is all set to become a reality in the state very soon," Pradesh Congress vice-president Suryakant Dhasmana told a news agency. The party had authorised Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna to initiate the process at the earliest to enable Uttarakhand earn the distinction of being the first state in the country to establish an anti-corruption watchdog on the lines of the Lokpal bill passed by Parliament, he said. When reminded that the Uttarakhand Lokayukta Bill passed by the previous BJP government, headed by BC Khanduri, had become an act after the Presidential assent, the Congress leader said it would be repealed. "Khanduri's Lokayukta will be repealed and a fresh bill drafted on the lines of the Lokpal will be passed by the state assembly and sent to the President for his assent," Dhasmana said soon after meeting Bahuguna. The Chief Minister held a meeting with Chief Secretary Subhash Kumar, Additional Chief Secretary Rakesh Sharma and legal experts earlier in the day and asked them to draft a Lokayukta on the lines of the Lokpal. "The draft of a new Lokayukta bill is likely to be ready soon and may come up for discussion at the next meeting of the Cabinet slated for December 26," Dhasmana said. A special session of the State Assembly could be convened any time after the Cabinet's approval for the new bill to pass the legislation, he said. Dhasmana said the ruling Congress was never against the creation of an anti-corruption watchdog in the state as was often alleged by opposition BJP. "We had reservations about certain provisions of the Lokayukta Bill passed by the state assembly during Khanduri's tenure and were only biding our time for the passage of the Centre's Lokpal by Parliament," the PCC vice-president said. On the opposition charge that the PDF, a conglomeration of BSP, UKD and Independent MLAs supporting the Congress-led government in the state, was divided on the issue of bringing a new Lokayukta, Dhasmana said there were no differences among them over the matter after the passage of Lokpal by Parliament with support of all parties except the Samajwadi Party. When contacted, Khanduri hailed the passage of Lokpal Bill by Parliament as a "good beginning" but said the Lokayukta Bill, passed during his tenure, had more teeth and could be a more effective instrument to combat corruption in Uttarakhand than the UPA's version of Lokpal. Drafted at a time when Anna Hazare's agitation for a Lokpal Bill was at its peak, the Uttarakhand Lokayukta Bill was passed unanimously by the state assembly on November 1, 2011 after Khanduri took over reins of power in the state for a second time in September, 2011. Given presidential assent after nearly a two-year wait, the Lokayukta Act brings under its ambit the Chief Minister, ministers, MLAs, bureaucrats, former government servants and functionaries of the subordinate judiciary. His government had also taken proper safeguards to prevent the Lokayukta from becoming autocratic by making it a seven-member autonomous body with the Leader of Opposition, members of the civil society and government functionaries proposed to be on the panel, Khanduri said.

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