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More teeth for Lokayukta - justification and risks

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Refer the "Empower Lokayukta" campaign running elsewhere on this website. It is important to understand what exactly this "suo motu" thing means. We are told that for Lokayukta (LA) in Karnataka to act on any public official, one of us needs to lodge a formal complaint. Essentially, LA can't act on its own, it must do so only on behalf of a citizen.

And how many of us do use the services of office of Lokayukta? Go no further than Karnataka LA website to get this answer. As per the stats there (http://lokayukta.kar.nic....), total number of complaints received without affidavits during March 2007- March 2008 was a mere 1331. Complaints to honorable LA with affidavits was 1058. Add both, you get about 2500.

Data is from 2008 (but fantastic website - lots of information there), but even if assuming the number has doubled to 5000 cases per year today, is that big enough?

One reason not many people log complaints would be lack of awareness around office of Lokayukta. Awareness means knowing how to lodge a complaint (what's the phone number or email address to contact? How long does it take? Will I have to attend courts etc?) and not just knowing that there is a Lokayukta in place. A campaign to just do some marketing for Lokayukta may get this number to grow by 10 times or so.

But, beyond the awareness factor, there is this perception about not "mingling" with agencies like the police, courts, and may I add lokayukta. How much effort will I have to put in after I lodge a complaint? Will I get some protection against the people who would become my enemies after I make the formal complaint? Can I be guaranteed some levels of confidentiality?

Remember, there is this other side to giving the revolver as well as trigger to Lokayukta. With so many people to shoot at, how will Lokayukta pick and choose the battles to fight? How can I be sure that this power in itself will not be misused? There are stories about an ex-Lokayukta that 'claim' that office of LA was used to settle scores across and with various public servants.

Now, despite absence of Suo Motu powers and broad awareness, is Lokayukta able to keep up with volume of complants it gets today? In that same stats page on Karnataka LA website, notice the work backlog:

Jurisdiction

Pending on 1 April 2007

Recd from 1 April 2007 to March 31 2008

Total

No of cases disposed during the perion

Pending count as on March 31 2008
Lokayukta 4124 1058 5812 1144 4038
Uplokayukta 16077 3602 19679 2904 16775
Total 20201 4660 24861 4048 20813

Notice the ratio of cases disposed to work backlog - 4048:20813, almost 1 to 5.

Summing it up, between the two

  • Demanding more "bandwidth" for clearing the volumes of work offices of LA and Up-LA get today, and
  • Suo motu powers for LA

What would be your demand? Easy - both!

For me, more bandwidth for them for sure, but the demand for Suo Motu jurisdiction - I would ask for it only if it comes with super high degree of transparency into operations of LA. Its not a big ask today, because folks like Justice Santosh Hegde are fans of total transparency. But what is the guarantee that the person coming in next would be like him!?

Anyway. Do think, or even better, act. by signing that petition. And by creating your own little groups to do some marketing for the office of Lokayukta.

Comments

Vasanthkumar Mysoremath's picture

In addition, decentralise corruption

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 I have already signed the petition and also drawn attention to another post of empowering Comptroller & Auditor General of India, the century old Whistle Blower (Britishers legacy) whose Audit Reports are completely documented and evidenced.  

- If these paragraphs are taken seriously and his efficiency cum performance audit reports are to be acted upon, every second official in governmental heirarchy can be kept under suspension and the money held under objection running into thousands of crores of rupees are recovered from the perpetrators by finalising cases through a fast track court to be assisted by the officers of CAG, India's deficit budget can be wiped out.

WHY NOT DECENTRALISE corruption? Here is a suggestion and I am open to discussion:

- Decentralise licensing/sanctioning power for anything and everything that needs approval -  distribute the power of sanctioning amongst 2/3 licensing Rajas (conditions apply)

- If I want a building license with a few deviations, I should have the liberty of approaching all the three 'Rajas' and to request them to quote their rates.

- After tender evaluation, I will approve the least corruption Raja, award him the work of doing everything, get the license and deliver it to my home so that I can go ahead with breach the law openly when this Raja comes for inspection and turns a Nelsons eye.  

- The above suggestion clearly brings out the fact that each and every one of us have the tendency to compromise our moral and ethical values for gain and would not mind bribing in some form or the other during our life time.  Ultimately, Law will catch up with the law breaker and screws him whereas the bribe taker would have got his wife a Jarataari Saree.  

- It will be a case of 'Choori karbooja per giraatho kya, karbooja choori per giraatho kya, kaatna karbooja hai'.  Think it over.

- Bang-lureans are the top bribe givers according to a study -Delhi and Mumbai in second and third places. 

- Comment is free but facts are sacred.

- Choice is ours

- Vasanth Mysoremath

silkboard's picture

Lokayukta - other states, and wider role

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Good point VM about CAG, more visibility and bandwidth for them would be so nice. CAG itself merits a separate awareness building discussion or campaign of its own.

However, let us avoid converting into a generic talk on corruption. Coming Back to use of Lokayukta as a tool to help citizens fight corruption, how do some other states look, and what would be some other measures to help citizens?

In 2004, Govt of MP had a proposal to have LA and UP-La also deal with "redressal of grievances arising from mal-administration". The amendment was rejected (as per this document on MP Govt website - http://mplokayukt.nic.in/...)

Actually, addressing citizen's complaints is of more value than chasing public office or public servant on charges of corruption or in-efficiency. Working on greivances is more of an outcome basd approach. If I get asked for bribe at BBMP when getting my Khata done, a complaint against BBMP official in question (to Up-Lokayukta) is not going to get my work done. And further, since I would now be 'blacklisted' at BBMP offices, things are likely to get harder for me.

There is one other point about immunity that some government servants enjoy against prosecution. This one too is a contentious issue with points for as well as against it.

To sum it up, the four suggestions so far to make LA more useful are:

  1. More bandwidth for them to deal with cases and reduce backlog
  2. "suo motu" powers, but with corresponding measures (more transparency) to check on misuse of this authority
  3. Grow office of LA into the state wide citizen complaints authority
  4. A way for LA, only LA and not everyone, to work around immunity that public servants enjoy in cases where there are valid (as judged by LA) complaints available with clear evidences (again, as judged by LA, and not media or public).

Look fwd to more wisdom and enlightment about Karnataka's LA from other members.

Vasanthkumar Mysoremath's picture

Can Prajas start this movement ..?

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   The following is the link to LA portal and the preamble of its home page is produced below.   This has been posted to clearly understand and egg the citizens/prajas to start a movement with/without getting branded as a whistle blower. 

http://lokayukta.kar.nic....

      /Lokayukta has taken up a drive to unearth disproportionate assets acquired by corrupt public servants. Acquisition of wealth disproportionate to known sources of income is punishable under Section 13 (2) r/w 13(1)(e) of the Prevention of Corruption Act 1988  Section 13(1)(e) says that a public servant is said to commit the offence  of criminal misconduct if he or any person on his behalf, is in possession or has, at any time during the period of his office, been in possession for which the public servant cannot satisfactorily account, of pecuniary  resources or property disproportionate to his known sources of income.

            For the purposes of this section, “known sources of income” means income received from any lawful source and such receipt has been intimated in accordance with the provisions of any law, rules or orders for the time being applicable a public servant.

            It need not be under emphasized that you can be a useful source for unearthing this disproportionate assets acquired by corrupt public servants.  Your co-operation with the Karnataka Lokayukta to reveal the assets acquired by the public servants would go a long way in preventing corruption.   It is however, requested that the information be given in specific terms i.e., instead of simply mentioning that a public servant has got vast extent of properties, it would be useful if the location of these properties in specific terms is given etc.      It will be ensured that the details that are provided by you will not be disclosed by any one.  If you so wish you need not reveal your name also/.

- Another point that needs to be considered here is with regard to valuation/accounting of confiscated movable/ immovable / gilt edged shares etc., as unaccounted wealth.  

  If a person had acquired a site in 1960s for one lakh rupees, today it may be worth one crore and similar is the case with gold  Will it be fair to announce that LA have unearthed crores of rupees in the form of gold / immovable unaccounted assets with reference to today's market value whereas The person concerned may have incurred loss by paying yearly taxes to concerned authorities?

- Vasanth Mysoremath 

srinu's picture

Valuation

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 If a person had acquired a site in 1960s for one lakh rupees, today it may be worth one crore and similar is the case with gold  Will it be fair to announce that LA have unearthed crores of rupees in the form of gold / immovable unaccounted assets with reference to today's market value whereas The person concerned may have incurred loss by paying yearly taxes to concerned authorities?

From our conversation with Justice Hegde, if I remember correctly, the Lokayukta office does not report value of assets based on current market value but based on purchase price as listed in the registration documents (and we all know how accurate that price is).  Our RTI (will be posted here soon) shows that last 3 years, the size of dis-proportianate assets is  Rs 296 Crores. This does not reflect real value IMO.

-Srinivas

kbsyed61's picture

Other half also needs to be spruced up!

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Glad to notice that there is a citizen campaign to empower Lokayukta. This should have been done long back. Wish the Lok Ayukta's mandate is extended to Legistlatures and ministers also.

The battle will be only half won if the other side of the justice system 'Courts' does not delivers in time. Even if the LA becomes empowered to file FIRs and file chargesheet, the real battle is fought in Courts. If the guilty doesn't get punished on time, the truth and justice looses its value. Case in point is Justice Liberhan report after 17 years of the catastrophe.

Unless current judicial delivery system scale up to the challenge of delivering the verdicts in given time frame, all the good work of LA will go waste. Actually the delayed justice process is dampening the spirits and good work of many upright officials in govt departments. How do we address this issue? Judicial reforms along with Police reforms? Long list :).

Meanwhile let us do what we can.

sanjayv's picture

Need a more comprehensive approach

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 The Empower Lokayukta campaign and its demands are good, but I suspect that those demands alone are not enough.  The Lokayukta's office is one piece that provides a disincentive to be corrupt by effectively delivering punishment to the corrupt.  Ideally, there should be 3 components to this mechanism.  (1) The police/ investigators (2) The prosecutors who will provide legal representation in the case and (3) A suitable judicial system that will punish.   The office should have excellent reach around the state and not be Bangalore centric - which raises the question of how the office is funded.  Finally, how does one find honest officers to populate these positions.

Right now, corruption is so blatant in this state that there is not much of an attempt to hide it even.  So, really, there is no fear!

After some extensive reading through the Lokayukta website around the time Lok Satta first started on this initiative, I was really confused (still am). It seems to me (my guess, could be wrong) that the Lokayukta's office (including the upa-lokayukta and remaining staff) also address all kinds of other complaints - of the sort which used to be erstwhile vigilance enquiries.  Most of these may be going to a departmental enquiry and not to a court.  Only cases that are classified as criminal go into the justice system.  Once again, note:  I am making a guess here. But if this is the case, we have another problem that needs to be rectified.

kbsyed61's picture

Is Lokayukta really toothless?

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Have heard statements like Karnataka LA is toothless and it can not prosecute the official allegedly involved in corruption with State Government's sanction.

Today Sat down to read what the Lok Ayukta Act has to say on that count. The Karnataka Lokayukta Act, posted on LA website has interesting section under prosecution

14. Initiation of Prosecution.-If after investigation into any complaint the Lokayukta or an Upalokayukta is satisfied that the public servant has committed any criminal offence and should be prosecuted in a court of law for such offence, then, he may pass an order to that effect and initiate prosecution of the public servant concerned and if prior sanction of any authority is required for such prosecution, then, notwithstanding anything contained in any law, such sanction shall be deemed to have been granted by the appropriate authority on the date of such order.

Isn't this empowers LA to initiate prosecution? Or Am I being very naive or stating legal jargon in simplistic way?

idontspam's picture

Court action

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Lokayukta cannot take the person to court & apply the criminal law on him. Only the below will happen

 

i)          if the Chief Minister or a Minister resign his office of the Chief Minister, or Minister, as the case may be;

ii)       if a public servant falling under items (e) and (f), but not falling under items (d) and (g) of clause (12) of section 2, be deemed to have vacated his office; and  

iii)     if a public servant falling under items (d) and (g) of clause (12) of section 2, be deemed to have been placed under suspension by an order of the appointing authority.

So some are suspended for namesake & then reinstated very soon. They escape the LAW becuse they cannot be taken to court.

kbsyed61's picture

But those clauses are not under prosecution?

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IDS,

The clauses you have quoted are not under prosecution heading. These belong to

13.  Public servant to vacate office if directed by Lokayukta etc.

 (1) Where after investigation into a complaint the Lokayukta or an Upalokayukta is satisfied that the complaint involving an allegation against the public servant is substantiated and that the public servant concerned should not continue to hold the post held by him, the Lokayukta or the Upalokayukta shall make a declaration to that effect in his report under sub-section (3) of section 12. Where the competent authority is the Governor, State Government or the Chief Minister, it may either accept or reject the declaration after giving an opportunity of being heard.  In other cases, the competent authority shall send a copy of such report to the State Government, which may either accept or reject the declaration.  If it is not rejected within a period of three months from the date of receipt of the report, or the copy of the report, as the case may be, it shall be deemed to have been accepted on the expiry of the said period of three months.  

 

(2) If the declaration so made is accepted or is deemed to have been accepted, the fact of such acceptance or the deemed acceptance shall immediately be intimated by Registered post by the Governor, the State Government or the Chief Minister if any of them is the competent authority and the State Government in other cases then, notwithstanding anything contained in any law, order, notification, rule or contract of appointment, the public servant concerned shall, with effect from the date of intimation of such acceptance or of the deemed acceptance of the declaration, 

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