Responding to the debate in the state legislative Assembly over the exclusion of chief minister from the purview of Lokayukta, Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said that she can only be “questioned by people, not anybody else”.
During the debate, the ruling party justified the decision of keeping the chief minister out of the Lokayukta’s ambit and making the government’s consent compulsory to initiate investigation against “public servants” and said that the Lokayukta Act might drive people “paranoid” and create a “fear psychosis” for being under “surveillance”. The party also argued that the chief minister should not be in the purview of the act since the prime minister is also excluded from the Lokpal Act.
“In democracy, there can be debates. But there should not be misconceptions. As far as my credibility is concerned, the people can only question me and nobody else. I have mortgaged my credentials to the people,” Banerjee told the Assembly during the discussion and debate over the West Bengal Lokayukta (Amendment) Bill, 2018.
Adding that her government has brought the amendments keeping the provisions of the central act — Lokpal and Lokayukta Act 2013 — in account and also keeping the essence of the West Bengal Lokayukta Act 2003 intact, Banerjee said: “We know how to strike a balance. But do not expect us to copy everything. We are a majority government and we can bring amendments. In future, if any other party gets majority, they can also bring changes according to their will.”
Taking a dig at the Modi government, she asked: “Why the central government is yet to implement the Lokpal Act. The central government has not even appointed Lokpal. I promise to appoint Lokayukta in ten days.” The chief minister also raised question on the role of media and said, “Why media houses are out of Lokpal’s purview? This is an era of fake news and fake views.”
Trinamool Congress MLA Tapas Roy further justifies the amendments saying that there was no point doubting each other always. “We had to amend the act. Otherwise, it would have create an atmosphere of suspicion and fear. Everybody will doubt everybody. Government will also not able to take any decision. How do you feel when you enter a mall and see a writing—you are under surveillance ? So, we do not think that we need to hear anybody’s lecture on this.”
Amid a stormy session, West Bengal assembly passed Lokayukta (Amendment) Bill 2018.