25 years of Lokayukta: Powerful, yet powerless

Justice Santosh Hegde gave some tips on how Lokayukta can take action on corrupt officials and ministers under existing laws.

“Western culture has made inroads to Indian culture, because of which we find nine-year-olds raping 13-year-olds. It is we, as a citizen, who have to do something about it, instead of pointing to others,” said Y Bhaskar Rao, Karnataka Lokayukta. He was addressing the participants after an interaction session organised on the eve of Lokayukta Day celebration, on Thursday, January 9, 2014.

The Lokayukta day was observed as part of 25 years of Lokayukta service in Karnataka. Bhaskar Rao explained the suo motu initiatives taken up by him in the last one year, including prompting the departments to start biometric attendance for lecturers in colleges, helping some women from Gadag to get their title deeds etc.

An interaction on improving standards of public administration, organised on the eve of Lokayukta Day Pic: Shree D N

The not-so-interactive “interaction” session on improving public administration saw many participants airing their views on Lokayukta functioning and corruption in society. There were very less questions raised; the questions raised weren’t answered satisfactorily.

Subhash Adi, Upa Lokayukta, admitted that what the Lokayukta has done with regard to reducing corruption was very little, and there was much more to be done. No social, economic or political development is possible  unless we rein in corruption. People must come forward to complain against corruption, he added.

U V Singh, who had headed the mining scam probe when Justice Santosh Hegde was Lokayukta, recalled those days. He thanked the judiciary of the country for stepping in when state governments refused to take action against the scam. He said everybody in the country was interested in knowing how the Lokayukta in Karnataka functioned so independently.

Raghavendra Auradkar said that most of the complaints received by the police are related to the non-functioning of a system. For example, people complain on builders for not completing the construction on time, and on same property being sold to multiple people. He advocated the use of technology to impose right kind of checks and balances and to ensure transparency.

Journalists’ side of the story

Ishwara Daithota, who was news anchor with Doordarshan, also a Senior Development Journalist, observed that common man was the best driving force behind the democracy, and the country has witnessed the power of the common man in Delhi. Journalism should respect the other three pillars of society; similarly journalism has the responsibility of finding out the loopholes in them. These days journalism too has fallen prey to corruption, which should be introspected often. Ethics, code of conduct and regulatory mechanism should be refined to better the system, he added.

Seethalakshmi, Metro Editor, The Times of India, explained the helplessness of journalists in exposing scams. She claimed that many people who approach the newspaper with documentary evidences on a scam or corruption case have some vested interest. It was tough to understand the motives and write the stories so as not to do any injustice to anyone, she observed.

Sudip Tho Mondal of The Hindu had something to counter the claims of Lokayukta. He contested the claim by Koshi that the Lokayukta hasn’t had any scams. He explained an incident where The Hindu applied for some data from Lokayukta through RTI, and got a denial stating that the newspaper was a profit-oriented entity, hence the data could not be provided. However, the Lokayukta registrar, H R Deshpande, tried to give an explanation for this later.

Bhaskar Rao expresses helplessness

Even after the three month’s time given to the government on granting permission to probe officials, the government hasn’t acted upon it, said Bhaskar Rao, in his press conference on January 9, 2013. He gave the statistics on reduction in the number of pending cases and others. 2013 saw 4335 Lokayukta complaints, whereas total pending cases are 6944.

Total reports sent to government under section 12(3) of Lokayukta act were 711, while reports sent under section 12(1), recommending action against guilty officers were 25. As many as 13 reports have been sent to the Governor where the state government has failed to react. More reports would be sent to the governor in due course, he added.

‘Lokayukta be given more teeth’

Toothlessness of Lokayukta to take action against the corrupt officials was the talk of the Lokayukta day, held on January 10.

Supreme Court Justice H L Dattu, former Lokayukta and justice of Supreme Court M N Venkatachaliah and former Lokayukta and chief justice of Supreme Court Santosh hegde were present during the celebration.

Justice H L Dattu seized the opportunity to request the government to make necessary amendment in the Lokayukta act and empower the Lokayukta to take action against the corrupt officials..

Referring to Justice Bhaskar Rao’s statement on the previous day on the failure of the government to take action against the officials who were accused of corruption, he said, “The time has come for the government to amend the Act and empower the Lokayukta to take action against the corrupt officials without seeking permission from the government.”

Because of this, officials take Lokayukta for granted as ultimately the power to punish still vests with the government where corrupt officials thrive, Dattu said. Lokayukta has been taking action against the public complaints and also taking suo motu whenever necessary since 15th January 1986. Dattu appreciated and saluted Karnataka Lokayukta office for doing a remarkable job in unearthing scams and corrupt officials.

Santosh Hegde gives tips

However, Former Justice and Lokayukta Santosh Hegde, who was influential in putting BS Yeddyurappa behind bar for mining scam called request for amendments to the act as redundant. Passing over a tip to the present Lokayuktas he said, “You should take action against elected representatives under Sections 176 and 177 of the Indian Penal Code when they violate the requirement to declare their assets every year before the agency. If they deny the information, they can be jailed for three months under Section 176 and if they provide false information, they can be jailed for six months under Section 177.”

Since the the act was enacted, only 19 states in the country have functional Lokayukta institution. Maharashtra was the first state to implement Lokayukta in its state in 1971. Many other states like Haryana, Punjab, Orissa abolished the presence of the autonomous institute that serves as monitoring body of government.

Inputs for the first day from Shree D N.

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