“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.” This is what Justice (retd.) P. K. Misra told the Indian Express on the day he officially left Goa.
Justice (retd.) Prafulla Kumar Misra, during his tenure as the state Lokayukta, has pointed out several wrong-doings of the state government, including that of the former Chief ministers. However, with certain loopholes in the Lokayukta Act, the government appears to be quietly set aside the findings of the Lokayukta office, not serious to consider them.
Of the 21 reports filed by the judge, not one has been acted upon by the government, and this only highlights the lethargic attitude of the state in dealing with illegalities within its system.
Justice Misra, who was overnight stripped off his security protocol, has highlighted how the current Lokayukta Act lacks ‘teeth’ and as such, powers to execute his own orders were not available.
“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 was quoted as saying.
The government doesn’t appear to be serious about the Lokayukta’s reports, as it has not initiated any action against any of the office’s findings.
But it should, and here’s why:
If the state government, led by Chief Minister Pramod Sawant, is certain that corruption is an evil, and practices of such nature must not be followed, findings of the retired judge must be seriously considered. If not, it only implies how the state government, when shown its wrong-doings, quietly sets it aside, not to act upon it.
As a public administration, accepting and correcting the system needs to find a prime spot in the everyday functioning of the government.
During his tenure, the judge released reports that had a very crucial resemblance to ongoing corruption, and other activities deemed illegal in the state. From the covid-19 labour scam to the illegal renewal of mining leases, and also the report claiming MLA Michael Lobo unfit for public office.
All the reports, which have cracked a whip onto the authorities and other public functionaries have not gone down well by the BJP-led government. In fact, if one goes back and looks into the exact duty of the Lokayukta, it is to ‘handle complaints and allegations in respect of corruption and maladministration’. So, the very fact that the judge’s report points to that, it surely implies that he finds some valid points that the state government must consider.
The major drawback, however, that continues to remain is that the Lokayukta Act of Goa does not have the powers of prosecution like that of the Karnataka and Kerala Acts. Also, it has no provision for contempt of the Lokayukta’s orders.
All this only means a smooth passage for the public functionaries to be let off, without any action initiated by the government, because as pointed out, of the 21 reports submitted by the retired judge, the Action Taken Reports are still awaited.
“The complete disregard on the path of the BJP towards the constitutional body’s findings has displayed the how the BJP party with their high handedness and dictatorship have bulldozed all democratic setups in the country”, the Congress party said in a statement.
They have also asked the High Court of Bombay at Goa to take suo-moto cognizance and initiate investigations into the reports filed by the former Goa Lokayukta.
Aam Admi Party (AAP) meanwhile has demanded immediate action on MLA and Minister Michael Lobo after the orders passed by the Lokayukta against the minister. The Lokayukta in its order stated that the Calangute MLA was ‘unfit’ to hold office.
Refusing to act or initiate action on the judge’s finding will only make it certain that the Chief Minister and other public functionaries are inconsiderate and not concerned about the findings of the judge.
In fact, if it was any High court order, it would be binding on the state, but weakening the act by the state government only means that the reports and verdicts will be brushed away. Then, rightly stated by the retired judge himself, “What is the use of the Lokayukta then?”
The answer is for all of you to consider.