In a major embarrassment to the Congress, its major ally in the United Progressive Alliance — the Trinamool Congress — on Thursday rejected a major provision in the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Bill, 2011, which calls for formation of Lokayuktas, stating it “encroached on the authority of the States.”
Taking part in the Rajya Sabha discussion, Sukhendu Shekhar Roy, who was also a member of the Standing Committee to which the Bill was referred, said the government ignored his party's opposition to the provision — Part III: Lokayukta for a State — which would “weaken” federal character of the country.
Demanding deletion of the entire chapter, Mr. Roy said his leader, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, had directed the Trinamool MPs to oppose the Bill as it encroached on the autonomy of the States.
The Trinamool was with the government, but it would oppose the provisions that encroached on the States' autonomy, Mr. Roy said: “Come what may, we will oppose it as it violated constitutional provisions. We cannot allow a central legislation that will determine the State Lokayuktas…let State legislatures decide on it.”
He pointed out that his party had moved amendments to delete the clauses (63 to 97) that deal with the setting up of Lokayuktas.
The Trinamool had pointed out this “anomaly” at Standing Committee meetings but his suggestions were ignored. The Bill in its original form did not have the provision on the Lokayuktas, but suddenly it became the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Bill. “Noted jurists and even the Law Ministry had pointed to preserving the States' autonomy…but the government did not take notice of it,” Mr. Roy said.