The Tamil Nadu Assembly today passed the bill for setting up the institution of Lokayukta to probe allegations of corruption against public servants, following a walkout by the opposition, which dubbed the legislation as "toothless".
The DMK and its allies--the Congress and IUML-- wanted the bill to be referred to a Select Committee, and when their plea was not accepted, they walked out of the House in protest.
After the DMK and it allies had trooped out, the Tamil Nadu Lokayukta Bill, 2018 was passed by a voice vote.
Earlier today, Minister for Fisheries, Personnel and Administrative Reforms D Jayakumar tabled the bill.
Reading out the Statement of Objects and Reasons of the bill, Jayakumar said the Centre had earlier enacted the Lokpal and Lokayukta Act, 2013 which provides for setting up the institution of Lokayukta in every state.
According to the bill, the anti-graft panel shall be chaired by a sitting or retired high court judge, or a person with 25 years of experience in anti-corruption policy, public administration, vigilance, finance and law.
The anti-corruption ombudsman shall have four members, including two judicial members.
The chairperson and the members will be appointed by the Governor on the recommendation of a Selection Committee comprising the Chief Minister as its head, Assembly Speaker and Leader of Opposition, or the leader of the single largest opposition party in the Assembly, it said.
The Lokayukta's powers include summoning and examining any person and receiving evidence of affidavits. The investigation wing of the body shall have all the powers of a civil court under the CrPC, 1908, the bill said.
It can order a preliminary enquiry against any public servant by its investigation wing, or any agency of the government, to ascertain whether a prima facie case exists.
However, it cannot inquire into any complaint made against the chairperson or the members of Lokayukta, the bill said.
People making "frivolous, false or vexatious" complaints shall be punished with one-year imprisonment and Rs 1 lakh fine.
However, he said, there was no clarity in the bill about conducting investigation against a chief minister. Responding to him, Jayakumar and Law Minister C Ve Shanmugam said the Lokayukta's jurisdiction covered the chief minister.
Stalin demanded that the bill include provisions for creating separate investigation and prosecution wings under the panel, and adequate protection for informers.
He also wanted an "eminent person" to be included in the Selection Committee that would choose the chairperson of the panel, and suggested that the bill be referred to a Select Committee to examine these issues.
He insisted that the "toothless" bill should not be taken up for consideration today.
Soon after he made the demand, senior ministers were seen consulting Chief Minister K Palaniswami for a while. Jayakumar then requested the House to pass the bill.
Later, speaking to media, Jayakumar slammed the DMK over the walkout, saying it amounted to "supporting corruption.
(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)