MUMBAI: Even as anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare has taken the nation by storm to press for his demand for the Jan Lokpal Bill, in his home state of Maharashtra, the Lokayukta and Upa-Lokayukta are paper tigers in the absence of an independent investigating agency at their disposal and the lack of powers.
Maharashtra was the first to enact the landmark Lokayukta and Upa-Lokayukta (LA and ULA) Act in 1971, and the institutions of the LA and ULA came into existence on October 25, 1972; Rajasthan, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat and Delhi followed. "We were trendsetters in enacting the Act but our law is very weak. It appears to be a symbolic institution. We have no powers to investigate and we have to depend on the state government. Even if we recommend criminal proceedings, it requires government permission," a former Upa-Lokayukta told TOI on Wednesday.
He said as per the Maharashtra LA and ULA Act, they have powers under the civil procedure code (CPC), and they cannot investigate the chief minister or initiate a probe against a serving public servant and cabinet members, they have no powers of search and seizure, and above all, they cannot launch proceedings under the Contempt of Court Act if a public servant or cabinet member refuses to follow their orders.
This is not the case with LAs and ULAs of Madhya Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Gujarat, Delhi, Punjab and Haryana, where they can initiate proceedings under the criminal procedure code (CrPC). "The LAs of these states can investigate complaints against the CM, both present and past, launch contempt of court proceedings, and if needed, issue a non-bailable warrant to ensure their presence," he said.
He said the Karnataka Lokayukta is the most powerful in the country. Besides powers to initiate a probe against present and former CMs, an independent investigating agency headed by an officer of the rank of additional director-general of police is at his disposal. In each district in the state, a superintendent of police too has been appointed to implement his orders. "The additional director-general and superintendents of police report directly to the LA, who can file an FIR against erring public servants," he said.
He pointed out that when LAs and ULAs meet once in two years, a resolution is passed to press for more powers, on par with Karnataka. "In 2010, when we met in Bhopal, we pressed for more powers, particularly for an independent agency. It appears our resolution has become customary, as no CM feels he should be investigated," he said.
In Maharashtra, successive LAs and ULAs have brought to the notice of the governor and state government that bureaucrats were not serious about their recommendations. "In the recent past, the state Lokayukta submitted two special reports to the governor on his investigations and the role of erring officials. In both reports, the LA pointed out that the competent authority failed to take action on his report and a reminder was also sent, but there was no response. In many cases, the bureaucrats don't recognize the LA or ULA's authority," he said.
LA P B Gaikwad had brought to chief secretary Ratnakar Gaikwad's notice that senior public health department officials did not attend proceedings despite several reminders and finally deputed a junior-most official. "In the absence of powers under the CrPC and Contempt of Court Act, the LA and ULA will remain paper tigers. If the government is serious, it should amend the Act to be on par with Karnataka," he said.