Delhi Lokayukta Manmohan Sarin on Monday recommended to the President to issue an ‘advisory’ to Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit and Delhi PWD and Development Minister Raj Kumar Chauhan to desist from printing their photographs on loan application forms under the Dilli Swarojgar Yojna.
The Lokayukta has also recommended to the President to “efface or block the photographs if any printed on the existing forms prior to their use” and to “direct” the Delhi Government “to frame appropriate guidelines that would govern the issuance of advertisements, hoardings etc. containing photographs and images of public functionaries even during the period when the model code is not applicable so as to conform to the norms of conduct and integrity expected of ‘public functionaries’.”
Incidentally, this is the second time that the Lokayukta has taken on the Chief Minister and recommended action against her to the President. Earlier in July 2011, he had recommended Ms. Dikshit’s ‘censure’ to the President for “misrepresenting” facts by announcing in the run-up to 2008 Assembly polls that 60,000 low-cost flats were ready. However, the President had not found anything wrong in the Chief Minister’s conduct then.
The order of the Lokayukta on Monday came on a complaint by former Delhi BJP chief and sitting MLA Harsh Vardhan who had alleged abuse of position and power and failure to act as per norms of integrity and conduct by the respondents in getting their photographs printed on the application forms.
The complainant had also alleged “misuse of public funds and of government machinery” by the respondents for “their personal gains to get an edge in the forthcoming Vidhan Sabha (Delhi Assembly) elections.’’
It was also alleged that the Delhi SC/ST/OBC/Minority Finance & Development Corporation was owned and established by the Delhi Government and was controlled and managed by a Board of Directors appointed by the Lieutenant-Governor. The Corporation, he had pointed out, “advances loans to needy members of SC/ST/OBC and other minority classes”.
In his order, the Lokayukta said: “It is abundantly clear that the said photographs are not required by any reason for the sanction of the loan. The photographs do not provide any information which would enable either the processing of the application for loan or its sanction. The only purpose for putting the photographs is to glorify and develop a personality cult for the said leaders.”
He went on to add that it was the admitted position that “the Chief Minister whose beaming photograph appears on the loan application form has no role or function to perform in the grant or processing of the loan”.
Furthermore, the Lokayukta said, the challenge of the respondents to his order of January 16 or their questioning his jurisdiction to pass interim orders was “really of no consequence now in view of the decision taken by the Government to continue to print loan application forms as before with photographs and holding there is no need at present to frame any guidelines”.
Mr. Justice Sarin said the “above decision has been taken when recommendations on the conclusion of the inquiry had not even been made. It discloses a rigid and pre-set mindset on the matter non-receptive to any suggestions or recommendations for improvement or otherwise in governance.”
Coming to whether there was any “justification for printing of photographs on the loan application forms and the rationale there-of”, the Lokayukta said the counsel for the Chief Minister “sought to submit that the photographs of the Chief Minister and the Minister for SC/ST/OBC gave credence to the scheme which had been floated by the Government to alleviate poverty and generate self employment by providing loans to the needy sections”.
But he noted that “firstly, the submission is not borne out by the record and the decision making process” and “secondly, a scheme by which loans are advanced for the benefit of weaker sections and where recipients are the beneficiaries, such a scheme can hardly be said to be requiring any credence or boost its credibility by printing photographs of the executive head”. “This is not a case where any promise or assurance was held out regarding scheme of construction of houses etc. that might need some sanctity in terms of credibility,” he added.