It is the only southern state not to have a Lokayukta in place

news TN2016 Sunday, May 01, 2016 - 11:09

With Tamil Nadu all set to face elections on May 16, the state political parties are on a spree of manifesto-releases which delineate a string of promises and plans. One such  promise that resonates among four parties –the DMK, Congress, BJP and the People’s Welfare Front (PWF)- is the establishment of a Lokayukta -the anti-corruption ombudsman body- in the state. Incidentally, Tamil Nadu is the only southern state without a Lokayukta in place.  

 Lokayuktas and Lokpal Act were instituted under the Congress government in 2013, and it received the President’s assent in January, 2014 thereby becoming a law. According to the Act, the Lokpal committee should be headed by the Prime Minister and comprise four members including the leader of the Opposition.

 The 2014 Lok Sabha elections however saw lack of an opposition which in turn impeded the constitution of the Lokpal committee. The Parliament is currently in the process of amending the act which has been stuck at the proposal stage for over 20 months.  

 With respect to state governments, section 63 of the Central Act mandates the formation of a Lokpal committee within a year of the implementation of the central act. Tamil Nadu chose not to for some unexplained reason.

 A petition was filed before the Madras High Court in February 2015 demanding the formation of a Lokayukta. When summoned by the court in this regard, the state government replied that it was awaiting the amendments made to the Central Act.

 But many other states have already formed Lokayuktas irrespective of whether the amendments come through or not. “It is just an excuse on the part of the Tamil Nadu government to say so. All states have the same legislation. If other states could constitute a Lokayukta, why can’t the Tamil Nadu government do so?” questions former Karnataka Lokayukta -Justice Santosh Hegde.

 Will the electoral promise remain just a political gimmick?

 “If they abide by their promise, the people of Tamil Nadu would benefit. But I hardly see that happening because politicians -irrespective of their party affiliations- want everything under their control. Moreover, people aspiring for power do not want an ombudsman,” rues Hegde.

Organizations like Arappor Iyakkam have long been fighting for a Lokayukta in Tamil Nadu. “If a Lokayukta is in place, then corruption will come down drastically,” believes Jayaram Venkatesan –its convener. It also recently released a model Lokayukta Bill that proposes to bring the Department of Vigilance and Anti-Corruption (DVAC) under the Lokayukta as its investigation wing. The DVAC is currently under the State Vigilance Commission.

 “We want an independent DVAC under the Lokayukta without any sort of government intervention. The past five years have been riddled with corruption mainly because of the lack of an independent investigation wing,” asserts Jayakumar.

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