All about Lokayukta

‘Lokayukta’ has been making news in the recent weeks. Be it in the coverage about the appointment of Retired Justice R.A. Mehta as the authority of Gujarat Lokayukta or in the news about the investigation of corruption charges against Karnataka’s deputy chief minister K.S. Eshwarappa. We also heard this word quite often during the debate on Lokpal bill in 2011. But Lokayukta is not a new concept; it was mooted in 1966, when the Administrative Reforms Commission (ARC) headed by Morarji Desai submitted a proposal for Lokayukta as an anti-corruption body in every State.

What/who is Lokayukta?

The Lokayukta is an anti-corruption authority orombudsman (An ombudsman is an official, appointed by the government or by parliament to represent the interests of the public). He works along with the Income Tax Department and the Anti Corruption Bureau. The Lokayukta (sometimes referred to the institution itself) investigates allegations of corruption and mal-administration against public servants and is tasked with speedy redressal of public grievances.

Which are the States that have this authority?

Only 19 Indian States have Lokayukta.Maharashtra was the first State to introduce the institution of Lokayukta in 1971. There are no Lokayuktas in Arunachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim, Tamil Nadu, Tripura and West Bengal. The process to set up Lokayukta in Goa is in progress.

Karnataka’s Lokayukta is considered one of the strongest. N. Santosh Hegde, former Lokayukta of Karnataka, uncovered one of the biggest mining scams (quantified at Rs.12, 228 crore) of the country in 2011. His activism and strong evidences resulted in the then Chief Minister Yeddyurappa being jailed for 21 days in October 2011.

Who is appointed as the Lokayukta?

The Lokayukta is usually a former High Court Chief Justice or former Supreme Court judge and has a fixed tenure.

What are his roles?

Any citizen can make his/her complaints of corruption directly to the Lokayukta against any government official or elected representative. Lokayukta’s power varies from State to State. In some States, the Lokayukta inquires into allegations against public functionaries including Chief Minister, Ministers and MLAs. While some has the power to investigate into civil servants/bureaucrats, judiciary and police.

What are the shortcomings?

Lack of prosecution powers, adequate staff, funds and lack of independence are some of the limitation of the Lokayukta.

In many States, the office of the Lokayukta is vacant. For instance, Gujarat did not have a lokayukta for eight years until Governor Kamla Beniwal appointed Justice R.A. Mehta to the post. But the Narendra Modi government challenged it at the Supreme Court and the court upheld the appointment on January 2. Besides these, many cases are pending before the Lokayukta.

How different is it from Lokpal?

The Administrative Reforms Commission, (1966-70), had recommended the creation of the Lokpal at the Centre and Lokayukta in the States. The Centre is yet to get a Lokpal.

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