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Pictures from Empower Lokayukta  Protest on June 26, 2010  http://bit.ly/9oj2KX Videos http://www.youtube.com/wa...

Pictures from  Empower Lokayukta Walk December 2009

http://picasaweb.google.com/loksattakarnataka/EmpowerLokayuktaWalk#

From tracking down scams to exposing the corrupt to ensuring good governance, the Lokayukta takes responsibility to curb corruption rates in the state of Karnataka.

    
Q: How did the Lok Ayukta come into being?

In the early 1960’s after the constitution was drafted and accepted, it was noticed by the government that there were a lot of malpractices among the administration. A committee, the Administrative Reforms Committee (ARC), was appointed, which submitted reports on administrative anomalies. As per recommendation, a special body was appointed - one that has the capacity to take the decision between rights and wrongs in the working of the administrative machinery. It also recommended that every state should have a Lok Ayukta. Both the organization and the person heading it are called Lok Ayukta.
     
Q: Who heads the Lok Ayukta?

It is headed by a judicial officer; it is usually recommended that he/she should be a Chief Justice of the High Court or a retired judge of the Supreme Court. 
     
Q: What is ‘upa Lok Ayukta’?

Lok Ayukta is a two tier org. The Lok Ayukta and the upa Lok Ayukta are present. In reality, both are equally powerful. The Lok Ayukta looks into complaints and allegations not only against officers but also elected representatives of the people and other public servants who draw remuneration from the state/central exchequer.  If it is a class one officer or anybody above him (right up to the Chief Minister), the Lok Ayukta is responsible. The upa Lok Ayukta is responsible for anybody below this rank.
     
Q:  After the initial recommendation (in 1960), how seriously was the recommendation taken and what about its implementation?
     
None of the States implemented this recommendation until 1984. Karnataka came forth to implement it in accordance with ARC. The bill was presented but became an Act (Karnataka Lokayukta Act) only in 1986, when it was enacted as law. In January 1986, the first Lok Ayukta was appointed.

The ARC recommends Lokpal at the center and Lokayukta at state level. Till today, there is no Lokpal!

Q: What about the powers of the Lok Ayukta then and now?

The Lok Ayukta then had ‘suo moto’ power which means that they did not have to wait for a complaint. If they had information of any kind of corruption or malpractices, they could act immediately. If they felt it was necessary to enquire about any public servant, they could go ahead and do so. But, unfortunately, within six months the ‘suo moto’ powers of the Lok Ayukta were revoked because of political pressure. As they are dealing with ministers and higher officers, today, for action to be taken, a written complaint has to be acquired in a prescribed form supported by an affidavit of the complainant. This is difficult to obtain because people hesitate to complain about powerful people.
 
Q: How powerful is the Lok Ayukta today?

This institution is purely recommendatory in nature. The recommendations can be made, but whether the Government accepts it or not is up to them. Enquiry is done against recommendations by the Lok Ayukta Police who are proper policemen under the Police Act. Every Lok Ayukta office in each State is considered to be a Police Station, too. But, the only drawback is that when they act under the Lok Ayukta Act, they have limited powers.

(If a particular case is lodged under the Indian Penal Code, the designated Police officers under whose area it comes take it up, and depending on the recommendations they work on it.)

If one asks if this is a powerful organization, the answer is ‘yes.’ Lok Ayukta catch hold of the criminals, gather material against them, expose them, and accordingly send the report either to the Chief of Police or to the Government. They are just like any other investigating body. They do not have the power to punish. Punishment comes from the Court. They are not asking for the power to punish…

Q: What does Lok Ayukta need now?
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What Lok Ayukta is seeking is ‘suo moto’ powers to investigate without a written complaint/affidavit, so that it becomes a fear factor for dishonest politicians and others.
Secondly, there is one provision – Section 19 - of the Prevention of Corruption Act, which needs to be urgently repealed or removed.  Section 19 says that the Lok Ayukta has to obtain sanction from the government before taking up anything, which is a long- drawn out process. Also, due to obvious reasons of complicity, permissions from Government are rarely given to Lok Ayukta!
Lokayukta has proposed a set of amendments to the Karnataka Lokayukta Act  to the government. We obtained these amendments requests via RTI.  Lokayukta has specifically mentioned the sections of the current act that cause ambiguity and delays and suggested changes in such sections.
Lokayukta does not have enough man power to handle all their work. At the moment, they have 19,000 pending cases. Government should approve recruitment into Lokayukta
 
The Lok Ayukta has repeatedly appealed for the abovementioned powers to be vested with them, so that they can become more effective in dealing with rampant Corruption in the Legislative and Administrative bodies of the State.  All the Chief Ministers seem to support empowering Lokayukta and express their desire to do so, however, the actions do not correlate with their words.

We, the Citizens must campaign strenuously to achieve this goal and eradicate Corruption from our public life.

Q: What can we expect to see if Lokayukta has suo moto powers?

If the Act is amended to provide the authority with the suo moto powers then the Lokayukta would be able to  prosecute  a public functionary, after he  is satisfied, that a prima-facie case is  established  or made out against him in the inquiry and in such a case no prior  permission  or sanction of the competent  authority, should be necessary,  because only the Lokayukta can be entrusted  to  exercise  such powers objectively.

Given the suo-moto powers the Lokayukta would be able to:

  1. Take up anonymous complaints about an MP or MLA on the basis of newspaper reports about any scam or a large scale corruption issue
  2. To conduct investigation upon MPs and MLAs for corrupt practices on the basis of some prior knowledge or information. 
  3. To provide adequate protection to any whistle-blower who comes up with adequate information.
  4. Initiate prosecution/ conduct raid upon having information of dis porportionate assets found with any public functionary.
  5. To conduct investigation, trial and enforce orders through special courts and adequate machinery within a stipulated period of time, say, within 3 months.



Q:  How can we as ordinary citizens make a difference?

In democracy, collective public voice can bring about change. When our elected representatives are not giving voice to our opinions, we need to make our voice heard. Everyone seems to support this initiative but no action. This public campaign will send the a strong message “ STOP TALKING AND START ACTING NOW!”

Q: What is the stand of other parties on this issue?

Leaders of all parties, ruling or in opposition spoke in favor of empowering Lokayukta.
Here are some relevant press clippings from dating from 2002.

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The Hindu Jun 16, 2002

Shettar seeks more powers for Lokayukta

BANGALORE June 15. The Leader of the Opposition in the Legislative Assembly, Jagadish Shettar, on Saturday urged the State Government to give more powers to the Lokayukta.
Mr. Shettar told press persons here that the Lokayukta was doing a commendable job in exposing corruption in government establishments and he wanted the Government to amend the Act in the next session of the House to give more powers to the Lokayukta.
Mr. Shettar alleged that there was large-scale corruption and misuse of power in the Udupi Zilla Panchayat and demanded a thorough probe into the matter. Crores of rupees had been misused in the execution of development works by the officials in collusion with the contractors.

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The Hindu Jan 13, 2005

BANGALORE, JAN. 12. The Lokayukta, N. Ventakachala, has expressed displeasure over the Cabinet decision against amending the law to invest the anti-corruption agency with suo motu powers to take up investigations on its own and to deal with erring officials.
Mr. Venkatachala said the Chief Minister, N. Dharam Singh, had promised to amend the Lokayukta Act. "But now, he has gone back on his words, and the Cabinet has decided contrary to the assurance held out earlier. I wonder what is happening to the Government."
He recalled that after he agreed to become the Lokayukta, the then Chief Minister, S.M. Krishna, had assured him to give more teeth to the institution of Lokayukta. "But he was helpless against the pressure on him."


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The Hindu July 31, 2007

Lokayukta may get more powers
HUVINA HADAGALI (BELLARY DT): M.P.Prakash, Minister for Home, Law and Parliamentary Affairs, has said that an amendment to the Karnataka Lokayukta Act, with regard to providing suo-motu powers to the Lokayukta would be brought in soon.
Speaking to press persons here on Sunday evening, Mr. Prakash, while making it clear that the Government had the will to accord suo motu powers as sought by the Lokayukta, said that he had had detailed discussions with the Lokayukta and Upa-Lokayukta in this regard and would come out with suitable action in this regard so as to enable the office of the Lokayukta to investigate cases up to the official-level. "The work of drafting the amendments was on and soon would be completed and placed before the Cabinet for approval.

The draft document would be tabled in the Legislative Assembly during its next session, he said..

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The Hindu Sept 19, 2007

BANGALORE: The State Cabinet, at an emergency meeting here on Tuesday held at the instance of Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy, decided to grant suo motu powers to the Lokayukta. Top officials, including the Chief Secretary, will be brought under the purview of the Lokayukta.

The suo motu powers of the Lokayukta was taken away in 1986. At present, only the Upalokayukta enjoys such powers to act against only the lower level officials. With this decision, the Lokayukta can now act quickly in checking corruption in the bureaucracy.

Law and Parliamentary Affairs Minister M.P. Prakash told press-persons after the 30-minute Cabinet meeting that the Lokayukta Act would be amended through an Ordinance to provide such additional powers.

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The Hindu July 16, 2009

BANGALORE: Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa on Wednesday declared that the Government was ready to give suo motu powers within 24 hours to the Lokayukta to take up investigation against corrupt officials if both the Houses took a unanimous stand in this regard.