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Friday, April 23, 2021

Months after last Lokayukta left ‘disenchanted’, Goa govt appoints new ombudsman

On January 27, the Goa Assembly passed the Goa Lokayukta Amendment Bill — proposed by Goa Chief Minister Pramod Sawant, who also holds the vigilance portfolio.

By: Express News Service | Panaji |
Updated: April 4, 2021 9:29:40 am
Goa Lokayukta, Pramod Sawant, Goa Lokayukta Amendment Bill, Goa assembly, Goa news, india news, indian expressThe amendment Bill passed in January brought changes to eight sections of the Lokayukta Act, 2011.

The Goa government has decided to appoint Justice (retd) Ambadas Joshi, a retired judge of the Bombay High Court, as the new Lokayukta — nearly seven months after the last Lokayukta in Goa retired following the state government’s inaction on 21 of his reports.

Justice (retd) Prafulla Kumar Misra, who completed his term as Lokayukta in September, 2020, had said at the time of his departure that the Lokayukta Act in Goa was toothless and the anti-corruption authority in the state lacked the powers of those in Karnataka and Kerala. “Why should public money be spent for nothing? If the Lokayukta Act is being thrown into the dustbin with such force, then it’s better to abolish the Lokayukta,” retired Justice Misra had then said.

On January 27, the Goa Assembly passed the Goa Lokayukta Amendment Bill after which the Opposition accused the BJP government in the state of severely diluting the powers of the anti-corruption authority. The Bill was proposed by Goa Chief Minister Pramod Sawant, who also holds the vigilance portfolio.

On Saturday, Congress leaders in Goa said that Justice Joshi, a retired judge of the Bombay High Court, must hold a meeting with Justice (retd) Misra before he takes charge. Goa Pradesh Congress Committee president Girish Chodankar said, “The position of Lokayukta is not a ceremonial post. With the former Lokayukta Justice P K Mishra directing the BJP government to investigate almost 21 cases of their own government and as many cases pending before Lokayukta, it is loud and clear that it will be a challenging task before the new Lokayukta to be upright, honest and committed.”

The amendment Bill passed in January brought changes to eight sections of the Lokayukta Act, 2011, “with a view to bring the Goa Lokayukta Act in line with the provisions of the Constitution of India, the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 and the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 as amended vide the Prevention of Corruption (Amendment) Act, 2018”.

Following the amendments, retired judges of the High Court can be appointed as Lokayukta as against the earlier requirement of a retired Supreme Court judge or a retired Chief Justice of a High Court. The amendments also struck out complaints against holders of public offices for nepotism, maladministration, lack of integrity and improper or corrupt motive.

Former Goa CM and Leader of Opposition Digambar Kamat, whose consent was earlier sought for the appointment of the Lokayukta, said that in his reply he had asked the government to strengthen the Act before making the appointment.

Chodankar said the BJP government at the Centre had “murdered each and every democratic and independent institution in the country” and alleged that Sawant, who was a “puppet in the hands of the Modi-Shah duo” was only furthering their agenda to protect his position.

Last month, retired judge of the Bombay High Court Utkarsh Bakre, had withdrawn his consent to his appointment to the post citing “personal reasons”. A notification regarding the appointment of Justice Joshi, who earlier also served as the chairman of the Maharashtra Administrative Tribunal, is expected to be issued next week.

When contacted by The Sunday Express, Justice (retd) Joshi refused to comment.

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