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Dilution of Lokayukta Powers in Kerala

  • 06 Sep 2022
  • 7 min read

For Prelims: Lokayukta, Lokpal and Lokayukta Act, 2013

For Mains: Lokpal and Lokayukta Act, 2013, Issues Associated with the functioning of Lokpal and the way forward, Anti-Corruption Measures

Why in News?

Recently, the Kerala Legislative Assembly passed the Kerala Lok Ayukta (Amendment) Bill, 2022 .

What are the Amendments?

  • The amendment Bill has diluted the binding aspect of the Lokayukta order, allowing the competent authority to now either reject or accept the ombudsman’s report.
    • With the amendment the state government will get the power to either accept or reject the verdict of the anti-corruption body, after giving an opportunity to be heard.
    • The amendment will make Lokayukta a body for just making recommendations or sending reports to the government.
  • It has also made the Legislative Assembly the competent authority to review an indicting report against the Chief Minister.
    • If a Lokayukta report indicts a cabinet minister, the Bill vests the reviewing authority in the Chief Minister.
    • And in the case of legislators, the competent authority will be the House Speaker.
  • The Bill exempts political leaders from the purview of the Act.
  • The Bill allows for retired High Court judges to be appointed Lokayukta.
  • Section 14 of the Act which has now been amended said that if the Lokayukta is satisfied on the complaint against the public servant being substantiated that he should not continue to hold the post held by him, he shall make a declaration to that effect in his report to the competent authority who shall accept it and act upon it.
    • In other words, if the public servant is the Chief Minister or a Minister, he shall forthwith resign his office. Such a provision does not exist in any of the State laws or the Lokpal Act of the Centre.

What is the Concept of Lokpal and Lokayuktas?

  • The Lokpal and Lokayukta Act, 2013 provided for the establishment of Lokpal for the Union and Lokayukta for States.
  • These institutions are statutory bodies without any constitutional status.
  • They perform the function of an "ombudsman” and inquire into allegations of corruption against certain public functionaries and for related matters.
  • The Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013 provides for establishing a Lokpal headed by a Chairperson, who is or has been a Chief Justice of India, or is or has been a judge of the Supreme Court, or an eminent person who fulfills eligibility criteria as specified.
    • Of its other members, not exceeding eight, 50% are to be judicial members, provided that not less than 50% belong to the SCs, STs, OBCs, minorities, or are women.
    • The Lokpal was appointed in March 2019 and it started functioning since March 2020 when its rules were framed.
    • The Lokpal is at present headed by former Chief Justice of Jharkhand High Court Pradip Kumar Mohanty.
    • The Lokpal has jurisdiction to inquire into allegations of corruption against anyone who is or has been Prime Minister, or a Minister in the Union government, or a Member of Parliament, as well as officials of the Union government under Groups A, B, C and D.
    • Also covered are chairpersons, members, officers and directors of any board, corporation, society, trust or autonomous body either established by an Act of Parliament or wholly or partly funded by the Centre.
    • It also covers any society or trust or body that receives foreign contributions above Rs. 10 lakhs.

What are the Concerns related to Lokayukta Act?

  • The Lokayukta law was enacted to inquire into cases of corruption of public functionaries such as Ministers, legislators, etc. who are covered by the Prevention of Corruption Act. This Act does not include office bearers of political parties in its definition clause.
    • Basically, the Prevention of Corruption Act deals with corruption in the government and allied agencies, statutory bodies, elected bodies, etc. The functionaries of political parties do not come within the mischief of this law.
    • So, it is difficult to understand how they can be brought within the sweep of the Lokayukta Act.
  • Another problematic provision in this law is the one which deals with the reports of Lokayukta (Section 12).
    • It says that the Lokayukta shall, on the allegation of corruption being substantiated, send the findings along with recommendation of action to the competent authority who is required to take action as recommended by the Lokayukta.
    • It further says that if the Lokayukta is satisfied by the action taken by the competent authority, he shall close the case. The question is how the Lokayukta can close a corruption case which is a criminal case and which invites imprisonment for three to seven years.
      • Lokpal files the case in court after the investigation. There is no provision in the central law under which the Lokpal can close the case before it reaches the court.

Way Forward

  • Battle against corruption, in order to be effective today, can be achieved only through a comprehensive reform of our political, legal, administrative and judicial systems and not through one-off or piece-meal measures.
  • The Kerala Lokayukta Act should be reexamined by a committee of the Assembly and should be brought on a par with the Lokpal Act.

Source: TH

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