Much debated Himachal Pradesh Lokayukta Bill, 2012, has now forwarded to the Centre for the President’s assent. The Bill, if it receives approval, will replace the existing Lokayukta Act, 1983.

Himachal Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal says that this is the best bill which was drafted after a series of consultations with legal experts, state Lokayukta, some NGOs, beside other stakeholders. He claimed it even better bill than the one in Uttarakhand.

Among the striking features of Himachal’s anti-graft legislation is the proposal to set-up a multi-member independent Lokayukta institution that will have powers to initiate a suo-moto probe into corruption complaints. During the passing of the Bill, the government also incorporated new provisions to give the Lokayukta, powers of contempt of court at par with the high court.

Earlier Team Anna, which was initially associated with the drafting of the bill has criticized the present form of it and even slammed the legislation as being weak and toothless.

Under new provisions, besides the Lokayukta – who is currently a single member authority, there is a provision for two more up-Lokayuktas. The Lokayukta will either be a retired Supreme Court Judge or a Chief Justice of the High Court.

The power to initiate an enquiry against the chief minister, ministers, CPSes, MLAs and officers of the rank of secretary and above and heads of the Department would vest with the Lokayukta but no action can be initiated without the permission of a full bench of the Lokayukta.

The prosecution sanction in case of the chief minister, however, would be accorded by the state Assembly; against MLAs by the Speaker; against ministers, officers of the rank of secretary and above and heads of the department would be given by the chief minister.

The Bill also has a provision to keep the identity of whistle-blowers secret and provisions have been made to provide them security. In case of frivolous complaints a fine up to Rs 10 lakh and imprisonment of one year has also been made. This, however, was criticized by the all political parties including Congress, CPM, BJP itself and other people.