Sunday 21 July 2024

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Beyond the Lokpal & Lok Ayukta


Unless a multi-pronged attack is launched against the system of corruption, we may not get solace. An anti-corruption law is required, but as long as the policy of favouring corporate corruption remains unchanged, no institution however powerful is likely to be effective.

In Goa we had the Goa Public Men’s Corruption (Investigation and Inquiries Act), which was brought to deal with the corruption among public men (the Act did not deal with corruption among public servants). The Commission under the Goa Act functioned for sometime and the Goa Lok Ayukta Bill 2003 was passed by the Goa Assembly in 2003. The governor not having assented to the 2003 bill, the matter was referred to the President of India, but the bill passed by the Assembly has not yet been enacted.

There are certain issues involving Centre-State relations raised by the Union Home Ministry and the bill passed by the Assembly lies frozen. Though the bill was passed in 2003, there had been no clamour for setting up of the Lok Ayukta Institution in the State of Goa until the Anna Hazare’s movement has brought corruption menace to the centre stage. The Chief Minister of Goa has recently announced that he shall bring in the Lok Ayukta Law immediately. Certainly that is in keeping with the mood of the country.

The Goa Public Men’s Corruption Act, which functioned in Goa for sometime did precious little in doing justice to the cause to which the law was brought. The law was disbanded and no other Commission appointed thereafter and nobody clamoured for such a Commission. It shows that existence of the Commission made no impact and its absence in the years to come went unnoticed.

The scandals that hit last year like the 2G Spectrum Scam, CWG scam and the Bellary Mining Scam in Karnataka has paled into insignificance the famous ‘Jain Hawala Case’, which the BBC called ‘the biggest political earthquake to have hit independent India’. There can be no argument over the need for an anti corruption law and/or a law to deal with maladministration. The country has been yearning for such a law since 1966, when the Administrative Reforms Commission advocated Lokpal-type institution for redressal of citizens’ grievances. But till date that has remained a distant reality. Taking into consideration that the anti-corruption movement is  at the center stage, it is only a matter of time when such an institution shall be brought into being. The most powerful thing that has happened is that ‘things must change’ is the idea whose time has come.

The idea that ‘things must change’ was fired by the Lok Ayukta of Karnataka Justice Santosh Hegde, who through his reports as a Lok Ayukta of Karnataka has dammed political establishment in Karnataka. But it has to be noted that the Lok Ayutka of Karnataka is of the year 1980 and until the predecessor of Santosh Hedge Justice Venkatachala came on the scene, the Lok Ayukta Law made no effect.

Several states have brought in the institution of Lok Ayukta to look into the cases of corruption. In some cases, the task assigned to the Lok Ayuktas is confined into allegations of corruption involving ministers and government servants. Some cases include the Chief Minister. The existence of the Lok Ayuktas made no impact on the system of administration or corruption in the states where the Lok Ayuktas functioned, except that Justice Venkatachala and Justice Santosh Hedge took on the political establishment in Karnataka. There can be no doubt that the state governments install the system for cosmetic purposes as a popular move rather than as a measure to deal with maladministration and corruption. Many state governments have not implemented the reports of Lok Ayukta. In many cases, the Lok Ayukta reports are not even placed before the legislators and that goes unnoticed.

In some cases the political establishment and the Lok Ayukta had extremely bad relations. In 1976, the Maharashtra Lok Ayukta found two ministers guilty of malpractice. Instead of taking action, the minister hurled counter charges against the Lok Ayukta himself who happened to be an ex-chief justice of the Bombay High Court. It is sufficient to say that the Indian record has not been impressive over the Lok Ayukta institution in the country.

Bringing in laws and appointment of Commissions may not help deal with the menace. Parliament enacted the Prevention of Corruption Act. The Central Vigilance Commission was remodeled after the Supreme Court formulated the scheme for the independence of the Central Vigilance Commission and demanded a functional freedom for the Central Bureau of Investigation. But despite the existing laws and institutions in place, the politics-business nexus facilitated by the system, which celebrates the accumulation of wealth, has led to a spate of scandals.

There can be no two opinions that corruption has accelerated after the liberalization of the economy in the early nineties. With liberization, corruption has entered the very areas of policy making and a sense of shame earlier attached to corrupt (earlier corruption was under the tables) has vanished in the thin air. In fact corruption has become an acceptable part of our society with both the political class and bureaucracy just stopped short of formally legitimizing it.

The above dismal picture may not last long. A new awareness seem to have caught on the society. It appears patience is running out and the society is prepared to accept any method to bring in a system that shall do good. But we cannot afford to forget that the biggest institution that we have is the Parliament. And the Constitution of India is supreme. The supremacy of the Indian Constitution is even above the will of the people. The majesty and authrotiy of the parliament cannot be permitted to be undermined despite the menace corroding our nation.

Laws are required as laws are administered properly to bring in vigil in society. But laws alone may not deal with the menace. In recent times we have brought in number of new laws. The NDPS Act was brought in to deal with drug menace. Has the Drug menace got reduced? The dowry prohibition laws have failed to bring down the dowry and dowry deaths. The anti-smoking act etc. has not curbed the cigarette smoking. A multi-pronged attack on tobacco has brought down the smoking! Unless a multi-pronged attack is launched against the system of corruption, we may not get solace. An anti-corruption law is required, but as long as the policy of favouring corporate corruption remains unchanged, no institution however powerful is likely to be effective.

A grim scenario has emerged whereby every institution has failed and a picture is getting painted where even the judges of higher judiciary cannot be trusted. In that situation, from where shall we get the persons of impeccable character require to men the institutions!!

Disclaimer: Views expressed above are the author's own.

I was scammed by two lawyers in Goa who took my money and did nothing .


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Cleofato A Coutinho

Cleofato Almeida Coutinho is a senior lawyer and one of the constitutional expert in Goa. A member of Law Commission of Goa, he also teaches at Kare College of Law in Madgao.


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