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A State Waiting For A Lokayukta

Are we really going to have a Lokayukta in Goa at last? Chief Minister Laxmikant Parsekar promised on Sunday the state would have one by the end of April. He said he was in discussion with Chief Justice of the Bombay High Court D H Waghela and Leader of Opposition Pratapsingh Rane regarding the appointment. He won’t disclose the name of the appointee but said “all the formalities are almost over.” If nothing goes wrong and a Lokayukta is appointed he would be by record the second Lokayukta of Goa but effectively the first. For even though Goa passed the legislation for appointment of Lokayukta in 2011, a person for the post could be found only two years later. Justice B Sudarshan Reddy, a retired judge of the Supreme Court took over on March 8, 2013. It seemed Goa had at last found someone to examine complaints against ministers, MLAs and officers. Justice (retd) Reddy told the local media: “One thing I can assure is that all possible steps within the structure of the Lokayukta Act shall be taken to curb the menace of corruption at whatever level it may be.”
Alas, things were not going to be like that. Justice (retd) Reddy resigned only 7 months later. The government said he had quit on “personal grounds”. The explanation sounded not very convincing. What could have changed for Justice (retd) Reddy so irremediably within a few months to compel him to quit an office of high respect and responsibility when it is considered very natural and rational for a person of that age and experience to have weighed in the demands of personal situation before accepting the appointment? During the 7 months of his tenure a total of 12 cases were referred to him for inquiry. The cases included those related to irregularities committed in the admissions of postgraduate courses in the Goa Medical College and Dental College by misuse of power for the benefit of some kith and kin of high public functionaries and to illegal mining activities in connivance with ministers, bureaucrats and mining department staff.
The BJP had promised in its 2012 election manifesto that they would have a Lokayukta in office in 100 days. That did not happen, and then the first appointee left without completing a single case. Till date, that is two and half years since the first appointee left the state did not have a Lokayukta. We do not know how much conscious the BJP, or for that matter all MLAs, are of the deep suspicions of common people that they are all together in not allowing a Lokayukta to join and settle down in office. In their perception Justice (retd) Santosh Hegde, the former Lokayukta of Karnataka, is the model hero, and they want someone like him in Goa to curb corruption in high places.
The Lokayukta has wider powers than any court of law. This is because it is a special authority for redressal of grievances of the individuals against administrative acts or omissions. Powers have been conferred on the Lokayukta to investigate a complaint involving a grievance or an allegation made in respect of any action which is taken by or with the general or specific approval of the Chief Minister, a Minister or a Secretary, a member of the State Legislature or any other public servant. It is the exclusive jurisdiction of the Lokayukta to investigate complaints against the Chief Minister, Ministers and the members of the State Legislature. It has been established by verdicts of the Supreme Court and high courts that the nature of proceedings conducted by the Lokayukta are altogether different from that of a civil or criminal court. Unlike civil or criminal proceedings, a citizen making allegations against a public functionary before the Lokayukta may not be in possession of complete facts or documents, unless the allegation arises out of his personal transaction with any public functionary. The Lokayukta can start proceedings even on an anonymous complaint.
However, in Goa, the Lokayukta Act originally intended more to deter filing of complaints as it provided for criminal proceedings for making ‘false, frivolous and vexatious’ complaints. On public protest, the House amended the provision in 2013 to replace ‘criminal proceedings’ with a fine from Rs 10,000 to Rs one lakh. However, the government retained the clause saying that a minister “may” resign if indicted by the Lokayukta, refusing to change it to “shall”. So, it would be good for Goa to have a Lokayukta in office who works for full tenure as soon as possible, but at the same time the government and the opposition must not give probity with one hand and take it away with another.

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