A 13-point resolution seeking specific statutory and administrative reforms for strengthening the offices of Lokayukta across the country has been placed before Union Law Minister and Administrative Reforms Minister by the Lokayuktas at the end of their three-day national conference.
Delhi Lokayukta Manmohan Sarin, who had hosted the meet, said on Friday that among the measures suggested for enhancing the effectiveness of the Lokayukta and other anti-corruption agencies was “inclusion of members of civil services or all India services or holding civil posts or employed in connection with the affairs of the State, within the definition of ‘public servant / public functionary’.”
He said in Delhi for example the Indian Administrative Service officers are specifically excluded from the ambit of Lokayukta’s jurisdiction. “It is rare for a wrongdoing to take place unless the Minister and the Secretary who is an IAS officer are on the same wavelength. The Administrative Reforms Commission has held that role of a Secretary and Minister is ‘inextricably entwined’ and so having two different enquiries for the same actions, that of Minister by Lokayukta and that of the IAS officer by the vigilance department, makes no sense.”
The resolution has also demanded that the scrutiny of non government organisations depending primarily on Government and/or State funding be brought under the ambit of Lokayukta. “In the case of the Commonwealth Games, I am often asked why the Lokayukta did not probe the matter. The answer is that the Organising Committee did not come under the definition of a public functionary.”
It has also been suggested that Lokayuktas across the country be given with the power to take suo motu cognizance in any case so that they may be able to act even if there is no complaint. “In Delhi, this power vests with the Lokayukta, and it is crucial since very often the complaint is against those in power and the complainant fears reprisals,” Justice Sarin said.
Since the Lokayuktas are experienced High Court Judges, the resolution also calls for empowering them with the “power of contempt”, which, it said, should be sparingly used for the maintenance of decorum and orderly proceedings.
Likewise, it has noted that since powers of search and seizure are exercised by even magistrates, there was “no earthly reason why former Judges of the High Court acting as Lokayuktas should be denied this power or to nurture any apprehension of misuse”.
As many a times, parties challenge orders passed by Lokayuktas before courts without impleading them, the resolution has stated that in such cases of “jurisdictional challenge” there should be “incorporation of an enabling provision in the statute to seek intervention or impleadment in any proceedings before the court.”
Purpose of enquiry
Holding that the Lokayukta inquires into the allegation(s) after Notice, giving opportunity for evidence being adduced, hearing the parties on their pleas and then giving the findings, the resolution has noted that hearing by the Competent Authorities, to whom the recommendations are submitted, “can be justified only in cases where the respondent has not been heard or given an opportunity in accordance with natural justice”. Otherwise, what is the purpose of having a Lokayukta enquiry at all? Justice Sarin asked.
Likewise, the resolution noted that since it is accepted that the executive should not have jurisdiction over the anti-corruption bodies such as the Central Bureau of Investigation, Central Vigilance Commission and the like, “the Lokayukta in the State should have supervisory jurisdiction over the anti-corruption bodies/agencies” there.
Finally, for the independent and effective functioning of the institution, the Lokayuktas have stated that “financial and administrative autonomy is a sine-qua-non” and this can be subject to financial discipline. “There can be a planned budget and the Lokayukta should be required to spend as per it.”
Justice Sarin in his address said that President Pranab Mukherjee had also endorsed this view.