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Saturday, October 24, 2020

Goa Lokayukta leaves a dejected man: Might as well abolish post

“If you ask me in one sentence my experience in dealing with these complaints as Lokayukta in Goa, I will say they should abolish the institution of Lokayukta,” Justice Prafulla Kumar Misra Misra told The Indian Express.

Written by Smita Nair | Panaji (goa) | Updated: October 7, 2020 1:04:42 pm
Justice Prafulla Kumar Misra leaving his official residence at Altinho on Monday morning. (Express Photo Smita Nair)

Justice Prafulla Kumar Misra (retd) left Goa on Monday, completely “disenchanted” with the state government that has not acted on even one of the 21 reports that he submitted against public functionaries during his nearly four-and-a-half years as Lokayukta.

“If you ask me in one sentence my experience in dealing with these complaints as Lokayukta in Goa, I will say they should abolish the institution of Lokayukta,” Justice Misra told The Indian Express.

“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,” he said.

Misra, 73, served as Goa Lokayukta from March 18, 2016 to September 16, 2020. Among the public functionaries he indicted are a former Chief Minister and a sitting MLA.

Justice Prafulla Kumar Interview| ‘Either they (govt) do not read the Act deliberately, or advice given to them is not based on proper reading’

During his tenure, the office of the Lokayukta received 191 cases, 133 of which were disposed of. Among the 58 pending cases are 21 in which he sent reports to the government, but the Action Taken Reports are still awaited. His recommendations included “initiation of disciplinary action, transfer, detailed investigation by ACB or a declaration that an elected functionary is unfit to hold office”.

The Lokayukta Act in its current form “lacks teeth” and is “not good enough for Goa”, Misra said. It does not have the powers of prosecution that the Karnataka and Kerala Acts have, nor does it have a provision “for contempt of the Lokayukta’s orders”, he said.

“The government never acted on any of the reports,” Misra said. “I was always helpless, and I tell this to those who come with their grievances. I had no powers to execute my own orders.”

On the eve of his retirement, his security protocol was withdrawn, Misra said – an act that “came as a surprise”, and which he saw as a “churlish response to my reports”. (Express Photo by Smita Nair)

In several cases, he had used the verdict in the Lalita Kumari case, in which the Supreme Court had ruled that registration of an FIR is mandatory under Section 154 CrPC (cognizable offences), Misra said. “Many cases (were) coming to Lokayukta where the police were not registering FIRs. They kept saying that FIR was registered only after preliminary inquiry… I know nothing is going to change. I do not have any hope. I know they will not act on any of the reports.”

Misra recommended an ACB investigation against MLA Pandurang Madkaikar for disproportionate assets; and a probe into allegations that labour department dole for stranded migrants was being usurped by functionaries of the ruling party.

In another case, he said a Cabinet minister was unfit to hold office. Justice Misra did not spare even the late Manohar Parrikar for “avoiding responsibility” in probing Madkaikar’s assets, as he was “serving as a minister and an MLA belonging to the ruling party”.

On the eve of his retirement, his security protocol was withdrawn, Misra said – an act that “came as a surprise”, and which he saw as a “churlish response to my reports”.

On Monday, the former Lokayukta left his official residence with his wife Bharati, without the traditional farewell.

One of Misra’s strongest reports was one in which he found former Chief Minister Laxmikant Parsekar, former Secretary of Mines Pawan Kumar Sain, and Prasanna Acharya, Director of Mines and Geology “guilty of abuse of power”. They had “hastily cleared”, without the mandatory checks, 31 files on January 12, 2015, the same day that an Ordinance which made lease available only by auction, was taking effect.

Earlier this year, after Chief Minister Pramod Sawant said he had rejected Misra’s report, the Lokayukta addressed a special report under Section 16 (3) of the Act to Governor Satya Pal Malik.

“They give opinions without reading the Act, and I sent the details of the sections and provisions again,” Misra recalled of the report, in which he had famously said:

“Only a Dhritarashtra or Gandhari would be unable to perceive anything sinister in what happened on January 12, 2015, and it seems there is no dearth of Dhritarashtra or Gandhari these days, in Mera Bharat Mahan. For that matter, it also seems there is no dearth of Shakuni in rendering ‘appropriate’ advice. ‘Putra Moha’ seems to have been substituted by ‘Party Moha’ or other kinds of ‘Moha’ in the system of Public Administration and shouting from the rooftops regarding eradication of corruption, while playing only lip service, when the question of actual eradication crops up.”

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