K.P. Balachandran panel had submitted recommendations

At a time when Congress-ruled State governments across the country are under tremendous pressure from party vice president Rahul Gandhi to ensure more teeth for Lok Ayuktas as anti-corruption ombudsmen, a set of recommendations to strengthen the facility in Kerala are gathering dust for the last one year thanks to the lackadaisical attitude of the State government.

As per a Right to Information (RTI) reply from Vigilance Department, Kerala Lok Ayukta had submitted a set of recommendations last year to expand its scope from the existing advisory role to a powerful and independent legal body fighting corruption and they were ratified by an expert committee led by former judge K P Balachandran later.

The recommendations were placed before the Congress-led government in the State for speedy implementation but no action has been taken so far.

Interestingly, giving more teeth for Lok Ayukta formed part of the UDF manifesto in the last assembly election and it found place in the first 100 day programme of Chief Minister Oommen Chandy. According to State Lok Ayukta sources, the recommendations ratified by K P Balachandran committee included steps to bring 117 more governmental institutions under the ambit of the body. The recommendations had also wanted to enable Lok Ayukta to take cases suo moto on corruption cases reported by both newspapers and television channels. At present, only the Lok Ayukta of Karnataka is enjoying the power to initiate criminal proceedings against those who indulge in corruption based on media exposes.

“It was only two days ago, Mr Chandy said shortcomings of the present Lok Ayukta would be rectified once the Lok Pal became a reality. In fact, he was conveniently forgetting the fact that an expert committee report was pending with his government for long to bring it more teeth. Lok Pal has very little to do with empowering Lok Ayukta,” said a senior officer associated with it.

As per the RTI reply sourced by Kochi-based lawyer D. B. Binu from vigilance under secretary K Madhu, the Chief Minister had not convened any meeting to discuss the recommendations from Lok Ayukta and the supporting proposals from the expert committee.

“The intervention of Mr. Gandhi has brought public focus on the present pathetic condition of the State Lok Ayukta. It is high time, Kerala government implements the recommendations and makes it a powerful weapon against corruption,’’ said Mr. Binu.

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