Uttarakhand Against Corruption

We all are witnesses to the huge effect that Baba Ramdev and Shri Anna Hazare’s anti-corruption movements made in the mindset of Indian citizens. While Baba Ramdev was shooed away from his protest venue Shri Anna Hazare was graciously awarded the venue (on terms and conditions though!!).

Lakhs thronged Delhi streets with anti corruption slogans and banners, people took offs from offices…drove hundreds of miles.. traveled long distances just to be a part of the movement. No one wanted to miss a chance after all everyone in India has had to deal with corruption at some point of time. Anyone and everyone, be it a victim or the cause [;) ] of corruption joined the protest. We heard that even Delhi Police supported the protesters, there were no robberies and crime rate had a steep fall during the movement in August 2011. Then there were news that Central Government acceded to majority of Team Anna’s concerns in Lokpal Bill and would pass a Janlokpal bill soon however, the news came and went. Nothing really happened!

Here comes a news that will surely make all of us Uttarakhandis a little more proud and more positive about the newly formed Khanduri government.

“The Uttarakhand Cabinet on Saturday 29-Oct-2011, cleared a strong Lokayukta, bringing in its net the post of Chief Minister, all ministers, MLAs and government servants, including IAS officers, with a provision of life imprisonment or more severe punishment.

While the lower judiciary will be covered under the Lokayukta, judges of the Uttarakhand High Court will not be under its purview.

At a meeting of the Cabinet chaired by Chief Minister B C Khanduri, it was decided to pass the Uttarakhand Lokayukta Bill, 2011, in the Assembly session on October 31 and November 1, sources said here on Saturday.”

What’s even better to know is that Lokayukta was unanimously passed by the entire Legislative Assembly of Uttarakhand including the Congress representatives (surprising!!).

Salient features of the Lokayukta Bill:

1) Uttarakhand may be the first state to bring the post of chief minister under the ambit of Lokayukta.

2) The new Lokayukta is also empowered to conduct departmental inquiry against corrupt officials and recommend dismissal, removal and reduction in their ranks. The recommendation will be binding on the government.

3) For speedy trial, there is a provision for setting up of special courts established under the Prevention of Corruption Act 1988, where the charges will be filed after completion of investigation. The period of investigation has been restricted to only 12 months.

4) For any act of corruption, the punishment will not be less than six months of rigorous imprisonment and may extend up to ten years. In the rarest of rare cases, the punishment may extend up to imprisonment for life. The Act also envisages the special court to take into consideration the higher rank of an accused to inflict a more severe punishment.

5) If the beneficiary of an offence is a business entity, in addition to the other punishments provided under the act, a fine up to five times the loss caused to the public would be recovered from the convict and the recovery may be made from the assets of the business entity and from the personal assets of its managing director/directors, in case the assets are inadequate.

6) If any company or any of its officer or director is convicted for any corruption offence, then the company along with other companies promoted by it, will be blacklisted and be ineligible for undertaking any government work or contract in future.

7) The Bill also makes it mandatory that if a public servant is convicted on the charges of corruption, that person shall stand removed from his or her office.

8) The Lokayukta will have power to recommend cancellation or modification of a lease, licence, permission, contract or agreement in case it found any corruption in such related cases.

9) Lokayukta shall have power to prepare an appropriate reward scheme to encourage complaints to from within and outside the government to report acts and evidence of corruption.

As always we could either hope for the best or keep thinking if this could be a publicity stunt by the Uttarakhand government. This could be their sole recourse for the forthcoming state elections after all the corruption charges that Nishank  had to face. The ball is in Central government’s court now…let’s see what game they play this time…not to forget India is watching…Aah! let’s think less and celebrate more…

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