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Will Maharashtra ever make its Lokayukta as powerful as Karnataka’s?

Mumbai,Kanchan Srivastava(DNA) : The “toothless and clawless” institution of Maharashtra Lokayukta now wants a complete overhaul, with full autonomy and an investigative body reporting directly to it. The Lokayukta also wants power to prosecute in a special court, and its punishment handed out binding to the state, with non-compliance inviting contempt.

Will Maharashtra ever make its Lokayukta as powerful as Karnataka’s?

Proposing a fresh Maharashtra Lokayukta Bill, 2014, submitted to the governor and previous Congress government on July 5, the Lokayukta has sought power to independently investigative and prosecute so that the institution can become “effective and efficient” and on par with the Lokayukta of other states — Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Mizoram and Goa.

“The Lokayukta shall constitute an investigation wing for the purpose of conducting investigation of any offence alleged to have been committed by a public servant punishable under the prevention of Corruption Act 1988,” reads the draft Bill, which also seeks to make the Lokayukta a four-member bench headed by the chairperson. Of them, two must be judicial experts and two can be from NGOs or women bodies.

“We have proposed a director of prosecution at Lokayukta office, who will work in tandem with the prosecutors fighting cases in the special court. Power of seizure and attachment of property of the public servants will reform the system,” said justice PB Jadhav, registrar of the Maharashtra Lokayukta.

The Bill, which also seeks to bring chief minister and other ministers and MLAs under its purview, suggests that till the time this special wing is created, state must allow pooling of DSP rank officials from the ACB and other agencies for carrying out time-bound investigation.

The draft also proposes power to search and enter any building or premises and seizure for inquiry. Lokayukta may impose fines which can be deducted from the salaries of the officers specified in the order, it adds.

The Lokayukta in state, which gets close to 7,000 cases per year, doesn’t have any power to investigate these cases, which are currently lying with the state government. Though the Lokayukta can recommend punishment for the guilty, it can’t ensure compliance and, hence, most government officers are said to be still in office despite being found guilty by the Lokayukta.

In fact, the Lokayukta may become defunct by month-end unless the government fills the posts of Lokayukta and upa-Lokayukta, with the former lying vacant since July and the person holding charge of the latter retiring on November 30. A top official said, “There is no point appointing a new person on the post until the institution gets some power.”

The chief minister’s office and chief secretory could not be reached for comment. However, a top official said, “The draft could be an attempt to pre-empt the state’s move of drafting Lokayukta amendment Bill, which supposedly lacks these powers though proposes to reform the institution.”

The draft bill proposes…
Lokayukta to be a five-member body representing judicial, NGO, women members
Special investigative and prosecution agencies reporting directly to Lokayukta, not the government
Time-bound inquiry and prosecution
CM, ministers, MLAs under purview of Lokayukta
Power to seize and attach property under dispute

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