With help from an amendment it passed nine months earlier, the Madhya Pradesh government on Saturday allowed Lokayukta P P Naolekar to continue in office, in spite of the fact that his term ends on Sunday.
The state government’s move has drawn criticism from social activists as well as a former Lokayukta, who claim that the extension granted to the former Supreme Court judge was a “reward” for several favourable orders.
Former Lokayukta Faizanuddin, in a scathing indictment of Naolekar, said, “One should not continue in office when one’s credibility has been questioned.’’
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The amendment last year, said Faizanuddin, indicated that “you had made up your mind and there must be something that saw you advocate the continuation of this authority. It’s really disgusting to hear such things about a Supreme Court judge.’’
Meanwhile, a group of activists said they would hold a peaceful protest at the Lokayukta’s office Monday, during which they will gift him roses and request him to “please go home”.
Reacting sharply to the criticism, Naolekar said, “I am not here to make everyone happy. Just because there were complaints (against ministers and the chief minister), should I hang them? The order on the CM (he gave a clean chit to Shivraj Singh Chouhan in the dumper scam) passed the scrutiny of law. Other orders (on ministers) can be challenged.’’
When queried about the former Lokayukta’s comments, Naolekar said, “He is entitled to his opinion’’.
On why his successor had not been appointed, the Lokayukta said that question should be addressed to the state government. “Maybe it’s my work. I have done more in my tenure than (has been done in) the previous 12 years,’’ he said, without naming Faizanuddin, who retired in 2003. “How can I simply retire? There is no up-Lokayukta either. The institution will be headless,’’ Naolekar said.
On the opposition by activists, he said such “protests would amount to interference in work”. Naolekar claimed that some people were “against him” even before he took over as the Lokayukta.
Meanwhile, Minister of State Lal Singh Arya, who holds the General Administration Department (GAD) portfolio, said the process to appoint Naolekar’s successor was going on.
“I can’t give a time-frame but the successor will be appointed soon,’’ he said, while praising Naolekar for acting against the “corrupt”. “The allegations against the Lokayukta are baseless. He probed the complaints and then gave a clean chit,’’ the minister said.
Principal Secretary, GAD, K Suresh said his department has already written to the Chief Secretary’s office about initiating the process to appoint a new Lokayukta.
Leader of Opposition Satyadev Katare, who has to be consulted to appoint Naolekar’s successor, had recently asked the government to start the process. After the amendment extended Naolekar’s tenure to seven years, Katare had written to the Governor and called the move “unconstitutional.’’
RTI activist Ajay Dubey alleged that the government was extending Naolekar’s term to reward him for exonerating as many as 10 ministers from corruption charges. “Such an extension is harmful to democracy. We doubt his integrity and ability to act against the government after having benefited from the illegal extension,’’ he said.
Dubey claimed that the state government had months to find a successor but it chose not to do so because it wanted the incumbent to continue.