Among the changes that are proposed is not allowing the Lokayukta to examine the correctness of any Judgement or order passed by any Court of Law, Tribunal, Statutory Authority or Officer. It also gives the competent authority, to whom the report of the Lokayukta is sent, the freedom to intimate to the Lokayukta action taken or proposed to be taken on the report or reasons for refusal to take action. The Lokayukta, if not satisfied with action taken, may make a special report to the Governor. The amendments also plan to omit the section where if the declaration is not rejected within three months, it shall be deemed to have been accepted by the competent authority, as also the section where if the declaration is in respect of a Chief Minister or a Minister and is accepted or deemed to have been accepted by the competent authority, he may resign from his office.
If these amendments find their way into the act, will the Lokayukta be in place only to meet the obligation of an Act that was passed by the government? In 2015, former Chief Justice of the Allahabad High Court, Justice Ferdino Rebello, had told Herald that the Lokayukta ‘has to be given some powers otherwise it will become just another commission’. As the government plans multiple amendments to the Lokayukta Act, it is beginning to appear that the Lokayukta, that is meant to be the adjudicator on corruption, will be just another commission.
A brief recap is required to bring things into perspective of how the government and the Lokayukta have been in a tense situation over the past few months. In Goa, it has been a year now that the powers of the Lokayukta are being debated, ever since the former occupant of the post had presented a scathing report on the second renewals of mining leases case, where he had passed stringent strictures against the then government led by Laxmikant Parsekar for granting the second renewals to mining leases. The government had rejected the report, leading the Lokayukta to send a report to the Governor. Just before he quit office, he passed several orders, and in one he named a Minister, going on to state that the MLA was unfit to be a minister, and in another where he questioned whether the minister is equivalent to God. The Minister had then stated that he would file a defamation suit against the Lokayukta.
The Lokayukta yields much importance, and his reports can change the fortunes of a government. As Rebello had said at that time, “Once politicians are aware that they are under the watch of a Lokayukta, that their jobs are on the line, things may change. In Maharashtra judgements have brought down chief ministers.” So, when there is a Lokayukta who will sit and decide on the corruption charges levelled against a politician or a bureaucrat, would the political establishment want a Lokayukta that is strong?
After having come to power in 2012 on the anti-corruption plank and the promise to clean up the State, the BJP government by diluting the powers of the Lokayukta indicates that it has no intention of fighting graft in the State. The Lokayukta is the main body that the people have to take their complaints of corruption to. If this institution has all its teeth removed, how does it bite the evil? All it will be able to do is roar, a sound that the government will then ignore.