Updated: January 26, 2022 9:54:34 am
The decision of the CPI(M)-led government in Kerala to bring an Ordinance to amend the Kerala Lokayukta Act is politically significant since the party at the national level had always advocated for “strong” and “effective” Lokpal and Lokayuktas.
In fact, CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury has often argued that the party had demanded a Lokpal as early as in the late 1980s when the Bofors scandal broke out and that the party ensured that it is included in the common minimum programmes of the United Front government in 1996 and that of the UPA in 2004.
In July 2011, as the then UPA government engaged with activist Anna Hazare on drafting of a Lokpal Bill, the CPI(M) issued a note, giving its stand on the issue in detail. The note said the “Lokpal should essentially be a fact-finding body that receives complaints, enquires, investigates and forward cases to Special Courts where prima facie there is a case of corruption” and that “it should have powers to recommend an enquiry and investigation suo motu”.
The Lokpal, it said, should have powers to recommend executive action and to approach courts when these are not accepted. It should be entrusted with quasi-judicial powers and autonomy to fulfill these functions.
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In the states, the party said, “Lokayuktas should be set up on the model of the Central Lokpal”. Besides, it demanded that all state government employees should be brought under their purview. It wanted the PM under Lokpal’s purview with safeguards.
On August 27, the party’s stand was articulated by Yechury during a discussion in Rajya Sabha on Lokpal. “In 1996, when the United Front Government came, the Common Minimum Programme was drafted. We had a role to play in that…,” he said. “What did we say in the Common Minimum Programme? I quote, ‘The United Front is committed to provide a corruption-free administration. A Bill to set up Lokpal will be introduced in the first Budget session of the Eleventh Lok Sabha…’.”
“In 2004, when the UPA-I Government was formed, we were party to the draft where we insisted that the Lokpal should be institutionalised… So, the Left has been consistently supporting and wanting this Lokpal,” he said.
The Bill did not see the light of the day in 2011. Parliament passed The Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act in December 2013. Days later, an editorial in party mouthpiece People’s Democracy said, “The CPI(M)… has been a consistent votary of the Lokpal and for the establishment of the institution of the Lokayuktas at the state level.”
“The scourge of corruption can only be effectively tackled when we as a people collectively raise the level of the social consciousness in our society. This requires a degree of political morality that is patently absent from the major existing political formations with the notable exception of the Left parties,” it had said.
In 2016, when the BJP government brought amendments to the Act, exempting central employees from filing details of assets and liabilities of their spouses and children, the CPI(M) opposed it.
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