Lok Ayukta: Central Cabinet holds the key

By Cleofato A Coutinho
20 April 2012 18:16 IST

The Goa Lok Ayukta Bill 2011 is pending before the central government.

The Lok Ayukta Bill was earlier passed by the Goa assembly and was reserved for President’s assent. The central government had referred back the 2003 bill passed by the Goa Assembly, which bill has been passed almost in the same form as the Goa Lok Ayukta Bill 2011.

Despite various deficiencies  including there being no separate investigating wing, prosecution wing, provisions for special courts and other refined provisions which came for discussion in the year 2011 before the civil society. The Goan civil society and the political parties in their competition to show that they want to fight corruption, refused to go for a better bill with provisions considered as refined in 2011. . The bill is again stuck up at the level of central government due to central bill pending before the Parliament.

It was a demand of the Anna team that the Lok Pal and the Lok Ayukta in states must be under the same law and that was one of the demands to withdraw Anna Hazare’s fast in August 2011. It was then felt that one law would bring in uniformity in the battle against corruption In pursuance of meeting  team Anna’s   demand, the Parliament passed a ‘sense of the house resolution’ which was communicated to Anna Hazare on August 27, 2011. The sense of the house resolution spoke of bringing Lok Ayukta in the states under an appropriate mechanism under the central Lok Pal bill.

In keeping with the sense of the house the central government brought in a bill called a Lok Pal and the Lok Ayukta Bill 2012 to provide for Lok Pal at the central level and the Lok Ayuktas at the state level.

The bill was passed in the Lok Sabha but was blocked in the Rajya Sabha where the ruling party does not have the majority. The question of whether under a central law, Lok Ayukta could also be set up in the state when crime control is the state subject became a major controversy on the issue of federal power of the states.

In Goa, the question is pending the setting up of the Lok Ayukta and pending the passing of the central legislation whether the Goa bill should be assented to the president. Technically speaking, there is no embargo upon the President to assent to the Goa bill. But the question is whether the Lok Ayukta in   Goa would be under central Lok Pal bill if the Central bill is passed by the Rajya Sabha as approved by the Lok Sabha. In case Lok Ayuktas in the states come under the central bill and the central bill shall prevail in much the same way as Right to Information Act 2005 has overridden the Goa’s Freedom of Information Act then prevailing in the state of Goa.

 Another issue discussed here in Goa, pending the assenting to the Lok Ayukta bill is whether the commission under the Goa Public Men’s Corruption Act be brought into being by notifying the Act.   Enforcing the act would mean setting up of the commission and the entire infrastructure which would become redundant in case the state Lok Ayukta Bill is assented to or the Parliament passes Lok Pal and the Lok Ayukta Act 2012. In any case the Act and the commission did precious little in combating corruption or booking the guilty, when the act was in force.

No doubt the setting up of the institution to check corruption and maladministration is hanging fire and becoming illusive for decades.

The most powerful weapon on the earth is an idea whose time has come.

Lok Pal and Lok Ayukta are bound to be reality in the near future. Their time has come.  No government shall be in a position to delay the setting up of the Lok Pal and/or Lok Ayukta institutions any further. In any case, the government brought the bill before the Parliament and even got it approved in the Lok Sabha. But it was blocked in the Rajya Sabha. And if the mood of the Parliament is anything to go by, then it is certain that the Lok Ayukta in the state would be disannexed from the central bill, paving for states to have Lok Ayukta under state legislations.

It is certainly the job of the government to get their bills approved by managing majorities in both the houses. But then in time of coalition governments and when the regional satraps provide numbers for the central government’s majority, the issue of managing majorities have become extremely difficult. And now it appears the central government is in the mood of giving up on the issue of setting up Lok Ayuktas at state level and come around accepting separation of the Lok Ayuktas from the Lok Pal bill.

The government, it appears, now wishes to pass the Lok Pal bill during the second half of the budget session i.e. in May 2012 after passing of the budget 2012-13. The prime minister has already called a meeting to build the consensus of the issue. In all probability the central government, which does not have enough numbers, shall succumb to the blackmail of regional satraps and split the Lok Ayukta part from the Lok Pal.

Now we see competitions on national issues also. The competing populism among the parties has given a complete beating to national spirit. Competing populism has done enough damage to the national polity. There may be no solution in the immediate future. That has also delayed the long overdue bill. The budget session of the Parliament holds the key to Goa Lokayukta bill. The Central Government may not consider the Goa bill. The central Cabinet has to take the final call on the Central bill. Then the Goa bill may be considered.

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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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