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Explained: The controversial ordinance to undermine Kerala Lokayukta’s powers

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New Delhi, Feb 07: In a boost for the Pinarayi Vijayan-led government, Kerala Governor Arif Mohammad Khan signed the ordinance to amend the decades-old law state Lokayukta Act on Monday.

The ordinance seeks to empower the chief minister or the Cabinet as "competent authority" to either accept or reject verdicts of anti-corrvuption ombudsman Lokayukta by conducting a final hearing.

Explained: The controversial ordinance to undermine Kerala Lokayukta’s powers

What is the Lokayukta amendment ordinance?

The government can "either accept or reject the verdict of the Lokayukta, after giving an opportunity of being heard".

Currently, under Section 14 of the Act, a public servant is required to vacate office if directed by the Lokayukta.

The amendments are being opposed for two reasons:

The changes are proposed through an ordinance and hence there was no proper discussions on the matter.

It violates the fundamental spirit of the central Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013.

Who is a Lokayukta?

The central Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013 was notified on January 1, 2014.

Lokayuktas are the state equivalents of the central Lokpal.

Originally, the central legislation was envisaged to make a Lokayukta in each state mandatory.

However, after opposition, the law then created a mere framework, leaving it to the states to decide the specifics.

Given that states have autonomy to frame their own laws, the Lokayukta's powers vary from state to state on various aspects, such as tenure, and need of sanction to prosecute officials.

Maharashtra was the first state to introduce the institution of Lokayukta through The Lokayukta and Upa-Lokayuktas Act in 1971. This was followed by similar acts that were enacted by the states of Odisha, Rajasthan, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and the union territory of Delhi. Powers of Lokayukta in each state are different and efforts are being made to make them uniform.

LOKAYUKTA: POWERS AND FUNCTIONS

The institution of the Lokayukta is considered as an anti-corruption agency, which is
responsible for addressing citizens' grievances pertaining to corruption, nepotism,
favouritism arising out of maladministration. In this context, the Lokayukta has:

  • Supervisory powers, that is, powers of superintendence over and to give
    direction regarding matters referred for preliminary inquiry or investigation;
  • Power of Search and seizure;
  • Power of civil court in certain cases;
  • Power to utilise services of officers of the State Government;
  • Power of provisional attachment of assets;
  • Power regarding confirmation of attachment of assets;
  • Power related to confiscation of assets, proceeds, receipts and benefits arisen
    or procured by means of corruption, in special circumstances;
  • Power to recommend transfer or suspension of public servant connected with
    allegation of corruption;
  • Power to give directions to prevent destruction of records during preliminary
    inquiry; and
  • Power to delegate. In this context, the Lokayukta may direct that any administrative
    or financial power conferred on it, may also be exercised or discharged by its
    officer. (Himachal Pradesh Lokayukta Act, 2014, http://www.bareactslive.com/
    HP/hp142.htm)

On the basis of above mentioned powers, the Lokayukta undertakes following functions to improve the standards of Public Administration:

  • Accepts complaint against administration from any citizen.
  • Accepts grievance against the accused person or body of persons, the Lokayukta provides the chance to the complainant for defending, after duly informing her/him/them.
  • The Lokayukta carry out fair and impartial investigations, based on facts against the accused person by taking the assistance of special investigating agencies.

If the Lokayukta is satisfied with the validity of the complaint, s/he can recommend her/his proposal through written request to the competent authority

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