19 Nov 2023  |   05:44am IST

Lokayukta Losing Its Bite?

The number of citizens approaching the Goa Lokayukta, a Parliamentary Ombudsman, has been seeing a steady drop as several matters continue to remain pending before it, writes Anil Kumar Mishra
Lokayukta Losing Its Bite?

Constituted over a decade ago, the Goa Lokayukta has been entrusted with dealing with corruption and maladministration complaints made by members of the general public. However, despite having received several complaints since its constitution – including one against incumbent Chief Minister Pramod Sawant and his wife Sulakshana – the Parliamentary Ombudsman is yet to net a single politician or government servant for their alleged misdeeds.

 It is not surprising, therefore, that there has been a steady decline in the number of citizens approaching the Lokayukta with their complaints. In 2020, as many as 38 persons had sought action against errant public servants. The number dropped to 10 in 2021 and six in 2022. This year, till May, just five complaints have been placed before the Lokayukta.

Going Back In Time

Persistent demands by the people that a Lokayukta be appointed to book public servants indulging in corruption prompted then chief minister Manohar Parrikar to act. The government of Goa subsequently appointed Justice B Sudershan Reddy, a retired Supreme Court judge, as the first Goa Lokayukta in March 2013.

But the swearing-in was mired in a black flag protest by the opposition, which claimed that the appointment was not transparent. Within six months, Justice Reddy quit his post citing personal reasons.

The office remained vacant for two-and-half years. On April 28, 2016, Justice P K Misra, a retired Chief Justice of the Patna high court, took oath as the second Lokayukta. He continued in the post till September 17, 2020. At the time of his departure, he had reportedly said that the Lokayukta Act in Goa was “toothless”.

 “Why should public money be spent for nothing? If the Lokayukta Act is being thrown into the dustbin with such force, then it’s better to abolish the Lokayukta,” he was quoted as having said. Misra had also rued that the state government had not acted on even one of the 21 reports he had submitted against public functionaries during his term as Lokayukta.

Later, on May 7, 2021, Justice (retd) Ambadas Haribhau Joshi was sworn in as Goa’s third Lokayukta.

Cases In Point

In one complaint before the Lokayukta in 2020, where Chief Minister Pramod Sawant was the respondent, the matter was disposed of within two months as the complainant did not wish to pursue it.

There was another complaint against the chief minister filed by a resident of Panjim, Gurunath Gopalkrishna Naik in 2022, wherein he alleged that Sawant had disproportionate assets to the tune of approximately Rs 2.20 crores as compared to the legal income from all the sources disclosed between January 2017 and January 2022. He stated that a complaint was filed before the anti-corruption bureau (ACB) on February 8, 2022, with a request to register a case against Sawant under relevant provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988. However, the ACB’s superintendent of police later informed the complainant that no offence was made out under the Act, and that the complaint was filed for the bureau’s records. The case is still pending.     

In 2021, the Goa Lokayukta had sent a special report to then governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari stating that the Pramod Sawant-led government had refused to act on recommendations of the former Lokayukta to file an FIR against Pandurang Madkaikar, a former BJP MLA, in a case of alleged disproportionate assets.

In the same year, the ombudsman had taken suo motu cognisance of the issuance of sanads, or distribution of ownership rights and title, to only 46 beneficiaries despite 10,136 claims having been made over 12 years under the Forest Rights Act. The chief secretary, forest secretary and the principal chief conservator of forests were the respondents. The case remains pending.

Waiting and Waiting…

Among the other pending complaints is one by the Cavelossim Villagers Forum that was filed on May 5, 2020 against then North Goa additional collector Gopal Parsekar, then JE of the Margao BDO Nafisa Shaikh, and the Goa government. The complaint alleged that Parsekar, Shaikh and previous village panchayat of Cavelossim, with corrupt motive, favouritism and nepotism, had completely abused their positions to obtain personal gains.

Ivan Gerard Rodrigues of Margao had lodged a complaint at the Cavelossim panchayat over allegations of illegal construction in complete violation of CRZ rules. He had filed yet another complaint against Shaikh, Parsekar and then panchayat secretary Edwin Carvalho alleging that in complete disregard of ownership rights, they had protected illegal structures in the no-development zone and had subsequently passed orders allowing existence of illegal structure within this zone.

A complaint was filed against then Loutolim panch Xavier Fernandes and secretary Mario J J Viegas in 2021 for gross misuse and abuse of power, acts of favouritism and unlawful acts of tampering and manipulation of panchayat records during their tenure.

In the same year, a complaint was filed against the Goa government, Goa Tourism Development Corporation, its then MD Nikhil Desai, the State transport department and Frotamiles Pvt Ltd for allegedly using public office for favouring the app-based taxi aggregator, GoaMiles. Complainants Sudeep Tamankar, Ganu D Vengurlekar and Kewal Gurudas Mayekar sought a detailed investigation and punitive action against Desai.

Same Story Last Year

The first complaint of 2022 was filed by one Makbul Ahmed Jawli from Margao against then Curtorim police inspector Sagar Ekoskar, police sub-inspector Deepesh Shetkar and constable Rizwan who, he alleged, were involved in corruption, extortion, and maladministration. The case was disposed of on September 20, 2022. In his order, the Lokayukta observed that as none appeared for the applicant, the case was dismissed for want of prosecution.

In another complaint, James Fernandes from Curchorem alleged that Cynthia Fernandes of the Curchorem-Cacora Municipal Council had, in collusion with other municipal officials, committed a major fraud wherein a revised plan of construction of a ground-plus-first-floor building was arbitrarily approved by the council without the mandatory approval of TCP department. No construction license was issued by the council towards the revised construction plans, the complainant claimed. He prayed that the council be directed to verify allegations made in the complaints regarding residential houses not being constructed as per the approved plans, to revoke occupancy certificates and to initiate coercive steps as per the law within specific time frames.

Sushant Ray from Benaulim complained against Martins Comfort Inn, which he claimed was being run for the many years with only a residential sanad issued by South Goa additional collector. The case was dismissed as it did not have merit.

One complaint by Kiru Sadashiv of Pomburpa was filed against Uttam P Parsekar, PWD principal chief engineer, surveyor Viresh Malkarnekar, and the state of Goa. Sadashiv, a civil draughtsman, was facing a departmental inquiry. He was dismissed from service in September 2021 and sought his reinstatement and payment 

of all pending dues. However, the Lokayukta disposed of the case terming it non-maintainable.

The Lokayukta was also approached by one Kamlakant Chaturvedi from Sangolda to probe Sagar Gaude, then Administrator of Comunidades, North Goa, for sending a notice of final hearing without Chaturvedi having received any other notices from the administrator earlier. The Lokayukta disposed of the case saying complaints were filed before alternative effective forums as well and that they were pending.

The Scenario This Year

The first complaint of 2023 before the Lokayukta was lodged by Mangor resident Mahabaleshwar Halankar against the member secretary of the Mormugao Planning and Development Authority (MPDA), and the assistant planner and dealing hand. The complainant stated that he sought approval form the MPDA for conversion of his existing garage into a shop and the conversion of an office existing above the garage into family service room for a restaurant.

The second complaint was filed by Gurudas Khedekar from Haveli-Curti Ponda against Curti-Khandepar panch Bhiku Govind Kerkar, and secretary Rupesh Halarnkar alleging that Kerkar misused and abused his chair as an elected panch in 2021-22.

The third complaint was by Sulavati G Kankonkar from Curca. Kankonkar alleged that Leny Dias Juliao, the secretary of the Curca-Bambolim panchayat, had held his file (apparently for unlawful gratification) seeking grant of permission to repair his house.

The fourth complaint was by Agosthino Costa from Panchawadi, Ponda, alleging that on July 2, 2014, the PWD office at Ponda issued a work order thereby accepting the tender of Cristevo Santiago D’Costa, for an amount of Rs 14.20 lakhs for constructing a protection wall near the local panchayat office.

The fifth complaint was lodged by Rohan Naik from Tiral-Usgao alleging improper and incomplete construction of a public road passing from Ganjem to Kelini bridge at Dhavsherim-Usgao by the contractor and PWD.

All these cases are pending.

Staying mum

Goa’s current Lokayukta, Justice (retd) Ambadas Haribhau Joshi, declined to comment on whether the powers of Lokayuktas should be revised or deliberated.

He also refused to comment on the statements of the previous Lokayukta Justice (retd) Misra’s comment that the government had not acted on reports that the Lokayukta had submitted against public functionaries.

 What Justice Joshi did say, however, is that there is a need to create awareness and guide citizens on how to file complaints before the Lokayukta. 

“Most complainants approach us without proper legal aid. Therefore, there is a need to create awareness among the people. Articulation of complaints is very important,” the Goa Lokayukta said.


Iddhar Udhar