The First Lokayukta for Goa

By Prabhakar Timble
20 March 2013 15:04 IST

With Mr. B. Sudershan Reddy, retired Justice of the Supreme Court taking the oath of office as the first Lokayukta of the state, the machinery for complaints and redressal of grievances by citizens in respect of corruption by public men and officers seems to be in place. The Goa State Lokayukta Act is not full proof and needs to be amended to provide the required teeth to the authority to stay effective in answering the aspirations of the citizens on one side and provide the needed deterrence against corruption and the corrupt through punishment and confiscation of the ill-gotten profits through crooked and fraudulent means. The proposals for amendments are already in the court of the Chief Minister. Since there is a general consensus, it would not be out of place to expect a robust anti-graft law by the close of the budget session of the Assembly. Since the government has seriously detained the matter for legislation, an official communication from the government would enable the Governor to refer back the Lokayukta amendment bill sent for the assent for proper re-consideration in view of certain controversial clauses.

Understand limitations

Though the right to protest is everybody’s free choice, so is the right or privilege to exercise restraint. The protest should not have taken the ugly turn of black flag demonstrations against the present incumbent. At the same time, I know that this unpleasantness has erupted due to the assertive statement of the Chief Minister on the floor of the House claiming that the controversial sections in the amendment bill were inserted as per the recommendation of Mr. B. Sudarshan Reddy. This was a clever move to mock at the critics but it turned out to be injurious to the reputation of the Lokayukta to- be as a yes-man. There is sense in the protest with reference to the methodology adopted for selection. The perception that the search committee and the cabinet acting as the rubber stamp on the choice of the Advocate General  has to be addressed with proper statutory safeguards.  The Advocate General is otherwise a private professional and should not be associated to select an officer on the Bench before whom he is expected to appear on behalf of parties to litigation.

This is also a moment to understand the limitations of the Lokayukta to weed out corruption in governance. Otherwise, the concerned citizens would rest in peace thinking that the job is done. Just as a judge of a criminal court lays no claims for rooting out murder and theft nor the Supreme Court can boast of restoring a just social order, in the same vein the Lokayukta has no claim to stamp out corruption. At the most, the Lokayukta can suck the corrupt fruits and restore the same to public treasury. The reverse could also happen. Economic criminals and public officers could get emboldened if acquittals outnumber for want of sufficient proof and the failure of the prosecution to establish the crime of the white-collared public officers.  The order of confiscation and seizure of the Lokayukta has to be further executed by the concerned public authority. Added to this, there is provision for appeal to the High Court and the threat that it would be a court of inordinately delayed return.  What can be guaranteed is a window of litigation explosion accompanied by media trial.  The assurance on freedom from corruption could remain a far cry. This is the reason why citizens should not enter into a laid back syndrome.

Transparency & Delivery

The demand for reforms in delivery of services and transparency in public administration should continue. What affects the common man is the lack of accountability in administration in respect of time-bound disposal of matters and services that are to be provided to citizens. Such issues should not be brought to the doorsteps of the Lokayukta. The overburden of such routine and petty grievances would choke the wheels of justice for which this authority has been envisaged. It would like engaging the services of a super-specialist to do a surgery which can be handled by a pharmaceutical solution prescribed by a general practitioner.  A solution thought is in terms of The Right of Citizens for Time-Bound Delivery of Goods and Services and Redressal of their Grievances Bill. This is mean to restore answerability of bureaucracy and tackle corruption that plagues at this level.

The cost effective method to reach out to the exploding numbers is the use of information technology in delivery of public services. The more it is applied and brought in regular usage; it will make system transparent and accountable and also reduce the human speed breakers necessitating speed money. The private sector is heavily banking on technology in areas where services are to be provided to an expanding customer base. Public administration can adopt the same methodology which is largely used in provision of banking, financial and insurance products and services to customers by private sector. The departments of revenue, public distribution, public works and regulatory bodies should switch to these modules to ensure delivery and transparency.

How good the first Lokayukta of Goa is, would be known from the judgements and the innovative ways of dealing with litigation and litigants.  Being the first, it also matters in terms of conventions and precedents set. Hence, the first thing is for us and also for the incumbent to get out of the forty two years of pre-retirement experience hangover. Innovation is a luxury which knocks those who do not gather the flab and moss of experience. Speed, not judicial bureaucracy and confiscation of the springs of greed would determine the deterrence to white criminals. For the blue, it may be detention and imprisonment.

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Prabhakar Timble

Mr Prabhakar Timble is an educationist and a legal expert. He has served several educational institutions, especially as the Principal of Government College at Quepem, Kare College of Law in Madgao as well as couple of Management Institutes. He was also the State Election Commissioner of Goa.

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