Parrikar’s refuses to drop a controversial ‘deemed’ clause

The Bharatiya Janata Party-led alliance government passed the amendments to the Goa Lokayukta Act on Thursday, the penultimate day of the brief winter session of the State Legislative Assembly.

This came after an agitated Opposition Congress along with an independent MLA staged a walkout in protest against Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar’s refusal to drop a controversial ‘deemed’ clause which they said would dilute the efficacy of the Lokayukta and his proposal to heavily penalise complainants for false and frivolous complaints.

The Opposition MLAs led by Leader of the Opposition Pratapsingh Rane, Atanasio Monserrate, Vishwajit Rane, Reginaldo Lourenco along with independent MLA Vijay Sardesai urged the Chief Minister to drop a proposed amendment to the new Act with a clause which sought to replace the existing provision of Rs.10,000 costs\compensation to be paid to a public functionary if a complaint was proved to be malicious, vexatious, false or mala fide by a stringent provision of a fine between Rs.1 lakh to Rs.10 lakh and another sub-section 19A which will make such complaints punishable with imprisonment for a term between six months to three years, and with fine between Rs.50,000 to Rs.1 lakh.

The Opposition’s refrain was that the people as it is look down upon the political class with disrespect and saddling the Lokayukta Act with such huge fines and penalties would invite further “disrespect” and “suspicion” that politicians wanted to scare and discourage complainants from approaching the Lokayukta with complaints against public functionaries.

Mr. Rane even suggested that the government should allow the Act to function as it is and encourage common citizens to file complaints. He suggested leaving this aspect to the Lokayukta who happens to be a retired judge of the Supreme Court.

However, the Chief Minister argued that the tendency of defaming people by lodging frivolous complaints needed to be punished and that the authority to impose these fines and imprisonment would entirely be the discretion of the Lokayukta.

The other amendment which the Opposition objected in part and urged the Chief Minister to withdraw was the introduction of a deeming provision with regard to the “Report of Lokayukta” made to Competent Authority. The amendment with an additional sub-section to original Section 16 which states that “if the Lokayukta is satisfied that the complaint involving an allegation against a public functionary is substantiated and that the public functionary concerned should not continue to hold office held by him, the Lokayukta shall make a declaration to that effect. The Competent authority may either accept or reject such declaration after giving an opportunity of being heard to the public functionary concerned.” There was no objection to this provision.

However, the Opposition strongly objected to the new sub-section 5 introduced which stated: “If the declaration is not accepted within a period of three months from the date of receipt of the report, or of a copy of the report, it shall be deemed to have been rejected on the expiry of the said period of three months”.

Mr. Sardesai pointed out that this provision though was on the lines of Section 13 of the Lokayukta Act of Karnataka, it was exactly opposite in effect and would make the Lokayukta entirely “toothless.”

Probity in public life

He said that Lokayukta was brought to bring probity in public life and such a provision over his report would defeat the very objective. The Chief Minister, however, argued that his provisions were to strengthen the Lokayukta and would make it a serious institution.

Justifying his amendment of “deemed rejection”, Mr. Parrikar said the governors in today’s world were politically appointed. Though he did not have anything bad against the Goa Governor who he described as “good”, the same could not be said of other Governors, he said.

Reddy to be Lokayukta?

Mr. Parrikar declared that the Chief Justice of Bombay High Court had assented to the name of retired Supreme Court judge S. Sudarshan Reddy as Goa Lokayukta, and went on to say that these changes have been made in the Act because the judge requested him to strengthen the Act on the lines of Karnataka Lokayukta Act.

Mr. Sardesai was quick to point out that “deemed provision” in Karnataka Act was not to consider the report to have been “rejected” but “accepted.” Mr. Parrikar assured the House that the government would strengthen the Act further by adding good provisions from Acts in other States in future. As the Chief Minister declined to heed to their repeated pleas, the Opposition staged a walkout. The House then passed all the amendments, including a few others, unopposed.

  • Congress MLAs upset over sterner punishment and penalty for frivolous complaints

  • Introduction of sub-section 5 to Section 16 will make Lokayukta toothless: Vijay Sardesai