The national focus on setting-up the anti-corruption watchdog, the Lokpal at the Centre, may provide the much needed impetus for the "toothless" Lokayuktas in states, who consider themselves as merely "paper tigers who can only name and shame."
Barring Karnataka and Delhi to an extent, the institution Lokayukta in 18 states, with Gujarat becoming the 19th on Friday, has largely turned out to be a post-retirement employment for retired judges so far.
One of the main reasons why the Lokayuktas have failed to make a mark across the states is the lack of uniformity about their selection and functioning.
In some states, chief ministers come under the ambit of the Lokayukta, while in some others they do not. Since Lokayuktas are set-up in states on the basis of a law defining their composition and role made by the respective state assemblies, the anti-corruption ombudsman in states has been reduced to a ceremonial post.
This issue was raised at the all-India Lokayuktas conference held in Bhopal in last October, in the presence of the then law minister M Veerappa Moily. "It has been seen in a majority of 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," stated the resolution passed at the conference.
According to the Lokayukta of Delhi, Justice Manmohan Sarin, who is the chairman of the Lokayuktas committee, they need financial and administrative autonomy along with powers to search and seize. "Our experience shows that in the absence of police and investigative powers, we feel frustrated and this needs to be addressed," he said.
Justice Sarin added, "We are already called toothless tigers who can merely name and shame and do nothing more. Why curtail us further?" There have been instances of state governments threatening the Lokayuktyas with curtailing their powers, in case they persisted with investigations into allegations against the ruling party or officers close to them. Lokayukta
"I can speak from my personal experience that this has been a major deterrent in the way of Lokaykutas functioning effectively," said Justice Santosh Hegde, the former Karnataka Lokayutka.
He is of the view that the solution lies in having a single law for the Lokpal at the centre and Lokayuktas in states.
"There is no problem in the centre enacting a model law for the states, which would clearly lay down the guidelines for the appointment and functioning," he said.