CHENNAI: Demanding that the Tamil Nadu government refer the Lokayukta bill to the select committee to strengthen it further, the opposition parties staged a walk-out in the Assembly minutes before it was adopted by voice vote. Leader of Opposition and DMK working president MK Stalin pointed out that the bill did not categorically mention the name of the Chief Minister in the jurisdiction of Lokayukta (clause 12 (1)) and wanted the government to make changes to accommodate two more members-a judge of the High Court and an eminent person with experience-in the selection committee.
Referring to clause 3 (2) (a) of the bill that deals with composition of the body, he said that there was an attempt to have it headed by an officer and wanted changes in the clause. Stalin stated that the very purpose of establishment of Lokayukta would be defeated if matters including government contracts, appointments and any action relating to a person or local body were kept out of the jurisdiction of the anti-corruption body as stated in clause 13.He also expressed dismay over the clause that provides for a punishment of one year jail and Rs. 1 lakh fine for false complaints and wanted it to be modified.
Citing these issues, Stalin wanted the government to refer the bill to the select committee of the Assembly for perusal. Congress Legislature Party leader KR Ramasamy also echoed the same demand.
The Chief Minister and his colleagues had a brief huddle midway through the session before finally rejecting the plea of the opposition.Terming the bill as toothless and powerless, Stalin led his partymen walking out of the House. The Congress and IUML members followed suit.
Responding to the concerns raised by the Leader of Opposition, Minister for Law CVe Shanmugam noted that clause 1 (h) (i) of Chapter-I clearly stated that “Minister” means the Minister of the government and includes the Chief Minister.Minister for Fisheries and Personnel and Administrative Reforms D Jayakumar, who moved the bill, informed that it was drafted by taking into account the functioning of Lokayukta in other States and amendments could be made at a later stage.He said local bodies could not be brought under the ambit of Lokayukta because there was a separate arrangement, ombudsman, to deal with complaints relating to the local bodies.