In yet another absolutist measure by Mamata Banerjee, she has excluded herself from the purview of Lokayukta vide an amendment bill that was passed in the West Bengal Assembly on Thursday. Therefore, she will not be interrogated in cases relating to corruption as per the West Bengal Lokayukta (Amendment) Bill, 2018. The chief minister office has deliberately been kept out of the purview of the Lokayukta. This measure seems to be based on the notion that Mamata Banerjee does not consider herself inferior to anyone and is now trying to topple even democratic institutions in a clear attempt to challenge the rule of law in the state.
This amendment in the West Bengal Lokayukta Act, 2003 does not only exempt the chief minister from the purview of the Lokayukta but virtually makes the corruption watchdog toothless by ensuring that no public servant is questioned without prior sanction coming from the state government. This provision is somewhat similar to Section 14 (1) (a) of the Lokpal and Lokayukta Act, 2013, which also protects the prime minister from similar cases. However, with the prior approval of the government before questioning a public servant being made mandatory, the powers of Lokayukta are firmly in control of the chief minister. Even though Lokayukta will act as a corruption watchdog in the state but it will not be able to proceed without the consent of Mamata Banerjee in any of the cases.
A gazette issued by the West Bengal government concerning this amendment stated the objective of the amendment as, “Amending Section 8A so as to exclude any investigation of any complaint relating to allegation of corruption against the Chief Minister relating to public order and any investigation of the complaint against a public servant without the approval of the state government.”
The Lokayukta will be formed by a committee consisting of the minister-in charge of Parliamentary affairs, the chief minister, the assembly speaker and the leader of opposition. The earlier bill, however, had given no such exemption to the chief minister and this comes as a shocking development.
However, Mamata Banerjee seems to be shamelessly defending this move and argued that she was answerable to the people of the state only and is not ready to be brought within the ambit of any anti-graft agency. It is highly condemnable how she is trying to manipulate public opinion and confuse the electorate by stating that the chief minister cannot be made to answer before the Lokayukta.
Mamata Banerjee’s controversial move is facing criticism from all sides and even parties like the Congress have come hitting out at her. While moving the bill in the assembly, the opposition was vociferous in attacking the government about this distasteful move. BJP leader Dilip Ghosh rightly wondered that when chief ministers of 18 states fall within the ambit of the Lokayukta then what is so special about Mamata Banerjee that she is claiming a special immunity. But Mamata Banerjee who has been trying her best to check and aggressively extinguish any opposition seems unfazed by this criticism. In fact, Parliamentary affairs minister of West Bengal has taken the argument that this was necessary to ensure smooth functioning of the government.
Mamata Banerjee has been consistently making a mockery of state institutions and democratic set up in the state. The way TMC has openly resorted to political murders for retaining power and the manner in which the recent Panchayat elections had been marred on account of widespread violence by TMC goons consistently point out how Mamata Banerjee is damaging the administrative structure and the law and order situation in West Bengal in an irreparable manner.
Get real time updates about our posts directly on your device