Odisha became the first State to enact the law after the Central Act was passed in Parliament

Meeting the three-month deadline set by Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, the State Assembly on Friday passed the Odisha Lokayukta Bill, 2014, with provision of keeping Chief Minister, ex-Chief Ministers, other ministers and public servants under the purview of a six-member anti-corruption panel.

The Bill, introduced in the Assembly on February 12, was unanimously passed after a two-day discussion. The Bill has provisions similar to that of the Central Act which was passed in Parliament in December, 2013.

“With the passage of the Bill, Odisha became the first State to enact the law after the Central Act was passed in Parliament,” said Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kalpataru Das, who piloted the Bill on behalf of Chief Minister.

Mr.Patnaik had earlier announced that the State government will ensure passage of the Bill within 90 days of the Central Act. With passage of the Bill, Odisha Lokpal and Lokayukta Act, 1995 stood repealed.

Speaker Pradip Kumar Amat had on Thursday extended the ongoing session of the Assembly by one day for passing of the Bill. Of the total 60 clauses, only five amendments were accepted by the government before it was passed. “I am not sure whether this Bill can completely eradicate corruption from the State. But, it will certainly help to curb corrupt practices to a large extent,” the Minister said.

As per the provisions of the Bill, the incumbent as well as former chief ministers, ministers, MLAs, government officers, heads of panchayats and municipalities and trusts receiving government grants will come under the purview of the Lokayukta who is empowered to probe into graft charges.

NGOs, contractors (firm or persons) and suppliers dealing with government money would also be covered by it. The Chairman of the Lokayukta will either be a sitting or former High Court judge and the commission would consist of at least two judicial members. From among three non-judicial members one would be either women or scheduled caste, scheduled tribe or minority category on rotation basis. The Lokaykta should be at least 50 years of age.

The Lokayukta will be chosen by a selection committee headed by the Chief Minister and comprising others including the Leader of the Opposition, speaker of Odisha assembly, Chief Justice of Orissa High Court or a judge nominated by him and an eminent jurist nominated by the Governor. The chairman of the Lokayukta would be appointed by the Governor on the recommendation of the selection committee.

Though the state earlier had Lokpal and Lokayukta Act, 1995, it was not empowered to attach or confiscate properties of persons or organisations against whom prima facie corruption is established. “Now the Lokayukta investigating into corruption cases will be empowered to attach properties of the guilty for a period of 90 days,” Mr.Das said. Special courts will be set up for trial of such cases, the Bill’s provision said adding that the new Act will give authority to the Lokayukta to recommend the State government to transfer and suspend any public servant found guilty.

The Lokayukta, on receipt of complaint, may order preliminary inquiry against any public servant by its inquiry wing or any agency to ascertain whether there exists a prima facie case for proceeding in the matter. “The Lokayukta will have the powers of superintendence and direction over any agency or investigating agency, including the State vigilance or crime branch of police,” Mr.Das said. The Lokayukta will have powers for search and seizure and its inquiry wing will have powers of civil courts in some cases.

According to the provisions of the Bill, the Lokayukta will constitute inquiry wing headed by the director of inquiry for the purpose of conducting preliminary inquiry into offence alleged to have been committed by a public servant punishable under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988. The State government will make available officers and other staff as required by Lokayukta for conducting preliminary inquiry. The Lokayukta will also have prosecution wing headed by the Director of Prosecution who is or has been in the rank of Director of Public Prosecution of the State. Administrative expenses of Lokayukta, including salaries, allowances and pensions, will be charged on the consolidated fund of the State.

The State government will constitute special courts as recommended by Lokayukta to hear and decide the cases arising out of the PC ACt, 1988 or under th Odisha Lokayukta Act. The chairman will hold office for five years from the date he assumes office or until he attains the age of 70 years, whichever is earlier. Lokayukta will not inquire into complaint made against the chairperson or any other member. On removal and suspension of the chairperson and members of Lokayukta, the Bill says that they can be removed by the order of the Governor on the ground of misbehaviour. Before doing so, the Governor is required to refer the petition signed by at least 25 MLAs to the Orissa High Court.

The Bill has provision of penalty for those making false and frivolous or vexatious complaint with imprisonment upto one year with fine which may extend upto Rs 1 lakh.