After the civil society, lokayuktas (anti-corruption ombudsmen) of 17 states have now opposed the already embattled government's draft Lokpal Bill, saying the proposed multi-member body will have an adverse effect on the functioning of the institution.
The committee of lokayuktas has pointed out that the proposal in the draft bill to have a three-member lokpal, which is likely to be followed in the states, “would substantially” alter the character of the institution, leading to reduction in the effectiveness to tackle corruption.
“We regret to make it public that the government has not so far bothered to inform us about our suggestions given to it following our all-India lokayuktas conference last October, where we had opposed certain provisions of the draft bill,” said justice Manmohan Sarin, chairman of the committee.
“Lokayuktas need financial and administrative autonomy along with powers to search and seize. Our experience shows that in absence of police and investigative powers, we are toothless tigers and this needs to be addressed,” said justice Sarin, the Delhi lokayukta.
In the resolution passed in its conference, the lokayuktas’ body had stated that converting the ombudsman into a multi-member body “will lead to deadlocks among members and will only spread confusion”.
In another resolution, the lokayuktas had questioned their limited jurisdiction. “It has been seen in majority of the states, which have lokayuktas that our jurisdiction is confined to probing corruption cases only against ministers and MLAs. By excluding public servants, the entire purpose has been lost.”
“Wherever there are allegations of corruption, the lokayukta alone should have the power to investigate,” the resolution stated.
The lokayuktas body is also not in favour of the bill being proposed by the civil society activists. “Their draft also does not address the question of giving more powers to the anti-corruption ombudsmen,” justice Sarin said. Justice Sarin said they would urge the government to amend the Constitution to have an anti-corruption ombudsman in all states.