Friday, 4 January 2013

States must institute lokayuktas to clean up the system

States must institute lokayuktas to clean up the system
Clean Media Correspondent

New Delhi, Jan 04 (CMC) The Supreme Court has upheld the appointment of retired judge R A Mehta as Gujarat's lokayukta, disregarding chief minister Narendra Modi's objections to him. Modi had protested that governor Kamla Beniwal had bypassed his government in selecting Mehta. The Supreme Court, however, held the appointment valid on the basis of 'primacy of opinion' of the high court chief justice who, besides Beniwal and the opposition leader, had endorsed Mehta's selection. The Gujarat lokayukta post, caught in political brinkmanship, had been lying vacant since 2003. The revival of such an important anti-corruption institution is a step in the right direction. Other states, too, must now emulate this example. 

At a time when the country has been jolted by a succession of scams, instituting lokayuktas as well as strengthening the existing ones, are key to the success of an anti-corruption drive. State-level anti-corruption ombudsman organisations can play an effective role in highlighting and weeding out corruption. At present, barring in Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka, these institutions have no effective powers except to forward recommendations to the government on corruption allegations against public servants. A powerful lokayukta, on the other hand, can make a real difference. For instance, the Karnataka lokayukta, under Santosh Hegde, exposed massive systemic corruption in mining.
 The subsequent furore forced then powerful BJP chief minister B S Yeddyurappa to quit his post. States have enormous powers over day-to-day economic activities, from granting licences to disbursing permits in crucial corruption-ridden sectors like land, mining and construction. Recent revelations about coal allocation irregularities bear testimony to this. To achieve systemic reform, lokayuktas must be made an integral part of the Lokpal process. State governments can no longer take the plea of federal rights and stall them in their respective states.

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