Senior jurists have said the legislation to constitute a Lokayukta for Tamil Nadu is “unfair” and “diluted” and claimed that many of its provisions defeat the essence and purpose of having such an anti-corruption panel. The legislation was passed by the Assembly on Monday amid a walkout by Opposition legislators. DMK working president and leader of opposition in the Assembly M K Stalin had called the Bill toothless.
Earlier, the Supreme Court had pulled up the Tamil Nadu government for delay in appointing a Lokayukta and set a deadline of July 10.
P K Mishra, Lokayukta chief in Goa and the former Chief Justice of Patna High Court, termed as “unfair” one of the clauses in the Tamil Nadu legislation that provides for a year in prison and a fine up to Rs 1 lakh for those who make a “false and frivolous or vexatious complaint under the law”. Speaking to The Indian Express, he said there were discussions in Goa in 2013 to make the fine a minimum of Rs 1 Lakh. “But it was not implemented as it was against the spirit of the anti-corruption panel,” he said. Now, false petitions in Goa can attract a fine of Rs 10,000 to Rs 1 lakh.
Mishra added that consultation with the High Court chief for appointment of the Lokayukta chief is another precedent followed in the anti-corruption panel in other states. “In Goa, the Chief Minister has to consult the Leader of Opposition in Assembly as well as Chief Justice of High Court for appointment of Lokayukta chief. This is to prevent a political flavour in the selection. In such a system, the Chief Minister will have the power to suggest a name and to object if the candidate is corrupt,” Mishra said. In Tamil Nadu, the Governor is appointment authority for the Lokayukta chairperson and other members in consultation with a selection committee comprising the Chief Minister, the Assembly speaker and the Leader of Opposition.
Former Madras High Court judge K Chandru said the clause that puts all government contracts out of the purview of Lokayukta defeats the purpose of having an anti-corruption body. “In our administrative system, the corruption begins from the top, not bottom. And when most of the corruption happens in government contracts, tenders and their execution, what is the need of a Lokayukta if it doesn’t have powers to look at them? When the law says the Lokayukta can’t probe every other project the state is handling, it means nothing could be probed,” Chandru asked. Chandru said the lack of a vetting process by the Chief Justice of High Court during appointments to the Lokayukta is nothing but a “dilution of the ideal law”.
Goa, Kerala and Karnataka are seen as having strong Lokayuktas. The Karnataka Lokayukta can prosecute an official, a minister and even the Chief Minister. Goa, on the other hand, can recommend a prosecution.
In Kerala and Karnataka, the Lokayukta can initiate contempt proceedings if its order is not obeyed. But the Goa Lokayukta doesn’t have provisions to move contempt. The Goa Lokayukta, however, has the power to say that the Chief Minister is unfit to continue in office.