Kerala Ordinance will weaken the Anti-Corruption Watchdog

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Kerala Ordinance will weaken the Anti-Corruption Watchdog

  • The ordinance is awaiting the governor’s assent.
  • It will effectively neutralise the Lokayukta Act, touted as a model legislation, by turning the quasi-judicial institution into a toothless advisory body, whose orders will no longer be binding on the government.

About Lokayukta

  • A lokayukta (anti-corruption authority or ombudsman) is a government-appointed officer who represents the public's interests.
  • Most significantly, it looks into allegations of corruption and maladministration against public officials and is in charge of quickly resolving complaints from the public.
  • Lokpal and Lokayukta Act, 2013 was passed by the Parliament of India in 2013 which led to the appointment of Lokpal at centre and Lokayukta at State level.

Who is appointed as the Lokayukta?

  • The Lokayukta is generally a former Chief Justice of the High Court or a former Supreme Court judge who serves for a fixed tenure.

Appointment Procedure

  • The lokayukta and upalokayukta are appointed by the governor of the state. While appointing, the governor in most of the states consults
    1. the chief justice of the state HC, and
    2. the leader of Opposition in the state legislative assembly[4].

Qualifications of Lokayukta

  • Judicial qualifications are prescribed for the lokayukta in the States of Uttar Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Orissa, Karnataka and Assam.
  • But no specific qualifications are prescribed in the states of Bihar, Maharashtra and Rajasthan.

Tenure of Lokayukta

  • In most of the states, the term of office fixed for lokayukta is of 5 years duration or 65 years of age, whichever is earlier. He is not eligible for reappointment for a second term.

Functions of Lokayukta

  • The lokayukta presents, annually, to the governor of the state a consolidated report on his performance. The governor places this report along with an explanatory memorandum before the state legislature.
  • He takes the help of the state investigating agencies for conducting inquiries.
  • He has the authority to request pertinent files and papers from state government departments.
  • The lokayukta's recommendations are solely advisory and do not bind the state government.

Way forward in case of Kerala government’s decision to bring an ordinance

  • Battle against corruption, in order to be effective today, can be achieved only through a comprehensive reform of our political, legal, administrative and judicial systems and not through one-off or piece-meal measures. The establishment of an effective Lokpal institution is one such measure.
  • The Kerala government needs to recall the Lokayukta ordinance. Failing to do so could be viewed as a compromise on the part of the Left towards strengthening institutional checks against public corruption.