The lokayuktas (anti-corruption ombudsmen) of 17 states have opposed the government’s proposal to have a multi-member lokpal at the national-level saying similar changes likely to be followed in states will adversely affect the institution’s functioning.
In a letter to law minister M Veerappa Moily, the committee of lokayuktas has pointed out that the proposed changes “would substantially” alter the character of the institution, which will reduce the effectiveness to tackle corruption.
“Our understanding is that the government is in agreement with the recommendations of the second administrative reforms (ARC) commission related to the proposal on lokpal and lokayuktas, which we feel are not correct. We are worried at the stand taken by the Group of Ministers (GoM) in this matter,” said justice Manmohan Sarin, chairman of the committee of lokayuktas.
“We are already called toothless tigers who can merely name and shame and do nothing more. Why curtail us further?” remarked justice Sarin.
The second ARC, headed by Moily, had recommended an amendment in the Constitution to make it mandatory for all the states to appoint lokayuktas. It had also asked for the institution to be a three-member body.
The ARC had recommended: “The jurisdiction of lokayuktas would extend to only cases of corruption against ministers and MLAs and they should not look into general public grievances.”
Justice Sarin, who is the Delhi lokayukta, said their organisation welcomes the plans to amend the Constitution to have an ombudsman in every state, but will oppose all other recommendations.
“There is no uniformity in the powers of lokayuktas in different states, since the various governments have adopted different yardsticks. The only model central law which can provide uniformity unfortunately talks about curtailing the powers,” the lokayuktas body has said.
“The proposal to make lokayuktas a multi-member body will pose operational difficulties. If the government wishes to insist on this, then all members should be from the judiciary and not retired bureaucrats,” states the dissent note.
They have said the proposal to confine the probe to only ministers and MLAs would be counter-productive. “The function and role of a minister and a secretary in any transaction is integrated and/or complimentary to one another. Wherever there are allegations of corruption, the lokayukta alone should have the power to investigate.”
Opposing the proposed restriction on looking into general public grievances, they said: “Direct evidence of corruption against seasoned ministers and politicians is not always available. For doing that winning public confidence is important...”
Justice Sarin said lokayuktas’ views will be sent to the PM, the GoM and opposition leaders.