The Punjab Government led by Captain Amarinder Singh on Monday took a major step towards implementing another pre-poll promise, with the Cabinet approving the introduction of Punjab Lokayukta Bill, 2020, which will cover all levels of public functionaries, up to the Chief Minister.
The Cabinet decision will repeal the existing Punjab Lokpal Act, 1996, and the new legislation will be applicable to the Chief Minister, Ministers, non-officials/officials of all the public offices, with the aim of further enhancing governance and checking corruption.
The sweeping reform measure envisages an autonomous body to inquire into the grievances and allegations against public functionaries in the state and to make provisions for the appointment of Lokayukta and for the matters connected therewith. The Lokayukta shall have all the powers of a civil court under the Code of Civil Procedure 1908. It will also provide for prosecution in case of a false complaint.
Prosecution of the Chief Ministers, Ministers of MLAs can be sanctioned only with 2/3rd majority of the House under the new legislation. Further, all sanctions by the Assembly, whether or not permission to prosecute is granted, will be binding on the Lokpal.
All complaints will be scrutinised by a screening committee of the Lokpal before issuance of the notice, said an official spokesperson, giving details of the key provisions of the Bill. The screening committee will also take the Government’s opinion on the matter.
The legislation bars a parallel probe into a complaint against any officer/public functionary if an inquiry is being conducted in the matter by the Lokpal. Similarly, the Lokpal will not have the authority to conduct a parallel inquiry of the matter that is already under investigation by the Government.
The Lokayukta shall consist of a Chairperson, who is or has been a Judge of the High Court or the Supreme Court. Such number of members, not exceeding four, shall be appointed by the Government (provided that at least one of the member of the Lokayukta shall be from amongst persons belonging to the Scheduled Castes, or the Backward Classes, or the Minorities, or Women), all of whom shall be qualified personnel with impeccable reputation.
The Chairperson and Members shall be appointed by the Governor on the basis of majority of the recommendation of a selection committee, consisting of the Chief Minister as Chairperson, besides Speaker of the Legislative Assembly, Leader of the Opposition in the Punjab Legislative Assembly, Chief Justice of Punjab & Haryana High Court and eminent Jurist nominated by the Punjab government as its members.