Lokayukta

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    Recently, Kerala Lok Ayukta (Amendment) Bill, 2022, has raised the political temperature in the State.

    Key Points

    • Background: 
      • The Bill comes at a time when an amendment to the Prevention of Corruption Act has made it mandatory for the Directorate of Vigilance and Anti-Corruption to seek the government’s prior permission to investigate or chargesheet government officials. 
    • Stand of opposition: 
      • Opposition has reasons to believe that the Bill aspires to replace the Governor as the competent authority to accept or reject any unfavourable decision by the Lok Ayukta (under Section 14(5) of the Kerala Lok Ayukta Act, 1999) against the Chief Minister of the State.
    • Government’s stand:
      • The government views the LokAyukta as an investigation mechanism, not a quasi-judicial body. 
      • It believes the current law is against the Act’s preamble and glaringly lacks an appeal provision.
    • Legal Aspect: 
      • The LokPal Act allowed States to pass and amend their respective LokAyukta laws. 
      • Article 164 of the Constitution mandated that the Governor appoint or dismiss the Council of Ministers. 
      • However, as per the current law, the LokAyukta could bypass and destroy a constitutionally elected government by an adverse ruling. 
      • The State could not even appeal against the Lokayukta declaration under Section 14, which was final and binding.

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    Lokayukta

    • About:
      • The Lokayukta is an anti-corruption authority constituted at the state level.
      • It investigates allegations of corruption and mal-administration against public servants and is tasked with speedy redressal of public grievances.
    • Origin: 
      • The origin of the Lokayukta can be traced to the Ombudsman in Scandinavian countries.
      • The Administrative Reforms Commission headed by Late Morarji Desai in 1966 recommended the creation of the Lokpal at the Centre and Lokayukta in the states.
      • The State of Maharashtra is the first and pioneer State in India to introduce the concept of Lokayukta by enacting the Maharashtra Lokayukta and Upa-Lokayuktas Act, 1971.
    • Lokpal and Lokayukta Act, 2013:
      • The Lokpal and Lokayukta Act, 2013 provided for the establishment of Lokpal for the Union and Lokayukta for States.
      • The Act states that not less than 50% of the members of the Lokpal should be from among persons belonging to the SCs, the STs, OBCs, minorities and women.
      • The same rules apply to members of the search committee. 
      • Salaries, allowances and service conditions of the Lokpal chairperson will be the same as those for the Chief Justice of India; those for other members will be the same as those for a judge of the Supreme Court.
      • These institutions are statutory bodies without any constitutional status. 
    • The Lokpal and Lokayuktas (Amendment) Bill, 2016:
      • The Bill amends the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013 in relation to the declaration of assets and liabilities by public servants. 
      • It requires a public servant to declare his assets and liabilities, and that of his spouse and dependent children. 
      • Such declarations must be made to the competent authority within 30 days of entering the office.
    • Selection, Appointment and Removal of Lokayukta:
      • The Lokayukta is usually a former High Court Chief Justice or former Supreme Court judge and has a fixed tenure.
      • The Chief Minister selects a person as the Lokayukta after consultation with the High Court Chief Justice, the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly, the Chairman of the Legislative Council, Leader of Opposition in the Legislative Assembly and the Leader of Opposition in the Legislative Council. The appointment is then made by the Governor.
      • Once appointed, Lokayukta cannot be dismissed nor transferred by the government, and can only be removed by passing an impeachment motion by the state assembly.
    • Work and Functions:
      • The Lokayukta (sometimes referred to as the institution itself) investigates allegations of corruption and mal-administration against public servants and is tasked with speedy redressal of public grievances.

    Need for Lokpal/Lokayukta

    • Lack of Independence: Most of our agencies like CBI, state vigilance departments, internal vigilance wings of various departments, Anti-corruption Branch of state police etc are not independent. 
    • Powerless: Some bodies like CVC or Lokayuktas are independent, but they do not have any powers. They have been made advisory bodies. They give two kinds of advice to the governments: to either impose departmental penalties on any officer or to prosecute him in court. 
    • Lack of Transparency and internal accountability: In addition, there is the problem of internal transparency and accountability of these anti-corruption agencies. Presently, there isn’t any separate and effective mechanism to check if the staff of these anti-corruption agencies turns corrupt. 

    Challenges

    • Political Influence: The appointing committee of Lokpal consists of members from political parties that put Lokpal under political influence.
    • No criteria to decide eminent Jurist: There are no criteria to decide who is an ‘eminent jurist’ or ‘a person of integrity’ which manipulates the method of the appointment of Lokpal. 
    • No proper immunity to Whistle Blowers: The Lokpal and Lokayukta Act 2013 failed to provide any kind of concrete immunity to the whistleblowers. 
    • Judiciary excluded: One of the biggest lacunae is the exclusion of the judiciary from the ambit of the Lokpal.
    • No constitutional backing: The Lokpal does not have any constitutional backing. 
    • No provisions of appeal: There are no adequate provisions for appeal against the actions of Lokpal. 

    Way Ahead

    • Lokpal and Lokayukta appointments must be done transparently so as to minimize the chances of the wrong sorts of people getting in.
    • Lokpal and Lokayukta must be financially, administratively and legally independent of those whom they are called upon to investigate and prosecute.

    Source: TH 

     

    Mains Practise Question 

    [Q]  How can the role of Lokayukta be strengthened in India? Discuss throwing light on the major constraints.