Maharashtra is set to get a new Lokayukta, a post that has been vacant for 10 months, and the announcement is likely to be made by CM Devendra Fadnavis next month.
The Lokayukta, an apex institution for probing charges of corruption in the state administration, has been vacant since July 1 last year, when the term of the previous Lokayukta Justice (retd) Purshottam B Gaikwad came to an end.
The Upa (deputy) Lokayutka post has been vacant since November last.
Acting High Court Justice P V Hardas is a frontrunner for the Lokayukta’s post, sources said. Justice Hardas, who is second after Chief Justice Mohit Shah in the order of seniority among the judges in the Bombay High Court, will retire in June, sources said. Justice Hardas hails from Nagpur.
Government sources said that Fadnavis, along with the Leader of Opposition in the state legislature Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil, held discussions with the Chief Justice in this regard. Over 4,000 cases were pending with Lokayukta, sources said.
In consultation with the Lokayukta, a Upa Lokayukta will be nominated. The trend has been to nominate a retired IAS officer.
When Fadnavis, who now heads the BJP-led government in the state, was an Opposition lawmaker, he had often attacked the then Congress-Nationalist Congress Party regime for “rendering the anti-corruption watchdog virtually ineffective.” He had even introduced a private member bill proposing more teeth to the Lokayukta.
Senior officials in the Lokayukta’s office had said that the top two posts being vacant, the institution has not been able to submit recommendations to the government. The same officials had argued that they continue to hold hearings on complaints. In the absence of the Lokayukta and the Upa Lokayukta, principal district judge (retd) P B Jadhav, a registrar in the Lokayukta’s office, is holding fort. Jadhav’s term will come to an end in June.
A difference of opinion on who should be appointed the Lokayukta is believed to have been the reason for the 10-month delay, sources said.
Maharashtra was the first to enact the Lokayukta and Upa Lokayukta Act in 1971.
Senior officials admitted that the appointments alone won’t help much, as the Lokayukta is a “forum without teeth”. “It is more of a symbolic institution and has no powers to investigate or act against errant government functionaries. It can only recommend action in such cases to the government,” a source said.