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Power of taking Suo Moto case by Lokayukta prevails almost in all states but not in Tripura : Lokayukta Justice P.K.Sarkar
Banshi Raj Saha
Power of  taking Suo Moto case by Lokayukta prevails almost in all states but not in Tripura : Lokayukta Justice P.K.Sarkar
PHOTO : Lokayukta of Tripura, Justice P.K. Sarkar with TIWN's Banshi Raj Saha. TIWN Pic Jan 2015

Key powers not incorporated in Tripura Lokayukta Act to curb corruption: Govt. apathetic to Lokayukta’s recommendation for one year

The Administrative Reforms Commission (ARC) headed by Morarji Desai submitted a special interim report on “Problems of Redressal of Citizens Grievance” in 1966. In this report, the ARC recommended the setting up of two special authorities designated as “Lokpal” and “Lokayukta” for the redressal of citizens grievances.

The Lokayukta looks after the issues related to corruption at state level where the Lokpal has its jurisdiction over the union of India’s central government. The state Tripura, though, by now, possesses a full-fledged Lokayukta authority but as the same act was enacted in recent past only, the extent of awareness and functioning of the Lokayukta are not up to the mark, among the common mass.

Relating to the same, TIWN has taken an initiative to make the common people know the weapon which can be used to eradicate corruption and undue exercise of authority, through an exclusive interview of the Lokayukta of Tripura, Justice P.K. Sarkar.

Justice Sarkar, having his humble roots here in Tripura and an alumnus of capital’s Bodhjung school and MBB College, was a former judge of Guwahati High Court and then the Gujrat High court. Dearth of senior Judges and perusal of a close colleague had brought him from Gujrat to Guwahati and to Tripura, at last. Though his term as Tripura Lokayukta has been ended in last December, 2014 but as no senior retired judge is available, government has extended his period for more one year. While talking to our correspondent, Mr. Sarkar has expressed his views on multiple issues ranging from the issue of status of Lokayukta to devising some innovative ways to cope up with the menace of corruption.

Here are the excerpts.

TIWN : What is the prime doctrine of the Lokayukta?

Justice P.K.Sarkar : The main objective is to eradicate corruption from administration. Corruption which can be practiced by elected members from Chief Minister (CM) to Member of Legislative Assembly (MLA), Municipal Council and members of Panchayat. Lokayukta has its jurisdiction over any corruption matters done by any elected member, whether it is of financial irregularity and/or misuse of power. Anybody can file a complaint and enquiry would be initiated by the Lokayukta. And recommendation would be made by the Lokayukta. On the basis of the recommendation appropriate authority will take steps. The Lokayukta can enquire into the charges made against Chief Secretary (CS) to Peon. First a complaint has to be filed to Lokayukta. At that, the Lokayukta will make a prima facie enquiry to judge the authenticity of the complaint. Thereafter a sanction from the competent authority is to be obtained to probe into the charges raised. For CS the authority is CM. For any cabinet minister the authority is the CM and for other bureaucrats minister of the concerned department. But yes! Without sanction from the appropriate authority Lokayukta can not proceed. After the enquiry Lokayukta sends its recommendation to the same competent authority for taking necessary actions. Generally actions are taken.

TIWN : Give a brief note on the establishment of the Lokayukta in Tripura and its recent history.

Justice P.K.Sarkar : Tripura Lokayukta Act was enacted in 2008 by the Tripura Legislative Assembly. But as there was no senior judge in the state, Tripura State Legislature could not set up Lokayukta, with immediate effect. On last December 15, 2011 Lokayukta was established in Tripura and started functioning. 

TIWN : How many cases of grievance redressal have been brought to the notice of the Lokayukta against the politicians and Government officials, since its inception?

Justice P.K.Sarkar :   See … anybody can file a complaint in Lokayukta office. Nearly 150 cases have been brought to us in last three years.  Though some are pending but almost all the cases are disposed off. Some are pending. If you ask me to tell about one case among all, I would like to mention the case of Bikash Bhoumik of Rural Development (RD) department. As he was a salaried employee, taking his salary and other sources of income his wealth should have been nearly Rs. 15 to 16 lakh but he had an accumulated wealth of nearly seventy four lakh. We had recommended the government for filing case under Prevention of Corruption Act. Later on he filed a case in High Court of Tripura, which is yet to be decided.

TIWN : The Lokayukta consists of Income Tax department and Anti Corruption Bureau. How do these two coordinate with Lokayukta?

Justice P.K.Sarkar : Yes! Theoretically true but it is like … whenever I require the service of either central or state personnel, I am provided with that. I seek the task of Crime investigation Department (CID) where one Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) and Assistant Sub Inspector (ASI) sit with me in my office. I have further written to the Director General of Police (DGP) day before yesterday, for another Inspector or Sub Inspector. Thus the work of primary enquiry would be smoother.  

TIWN : State the constitutional status and authoritative jurisdiction of the Lokayukta.

Justice P.K.Sarkar : This Act is in addition of any other Act. There are certain restrictions. If any case is pending in any court, Lokayukta generally does not entertain such complaints. On my own I can not exercise authority vested on me. I need to be approached, at first. Different state legislatures have enacted different Lokayukta Act. According to their needs they have framed that.  One is not similar to another. Tripura has also done the same. But you know Karnataka has the most exhaustive and effective Lokayukta. They deal with the corruption at every stage. They entertain grievance and complaint in a prompt manner. If they want, they can take up cases of corruption on their own and no authority, permission or person is needed. But for Tripura this power has not been given to Lokayukta. Karnataka has full fledged separate Police force, court set up for filing case apart from the ordinary courts. Similarly in Madhya Pradesh definite provisions are there for search, seizure and raid in the premises of government office and officials houses. Raids can be made at any time. This power has not been given to Tripura Lokayukta.

In Rural Development (RD) and Rural Employment Guarantee Act (REGA) you would find so many complaints but  …. I see people are generally afraid of filing complaints, worrying about the retaliation from other side. So witness protection is very much needed. Good number of people even comes to my office with their complaints and wishes to keep their identity concealed. In Lokpal provisions are there for maintaining secrecy. Now-a-days you see RTI activists are killed if complaining against the public servants and alike. The power of taking Suo Moto cases is there in almost all the states but Tripura is an exception, in this regard. In the year 2012, a conference had held in Delhi where a general consensus was made to strengthen the Lokayukta Act to give relief to the victims. The same was attended by Supreme Court and High Court judges, press people and the law students. I have made suggestions to the government of Tripura for incorporating some amendments to strengthen the Lokayukta but the Government is yet to make any decision and the same has been pending for last one year. The law department, Advocate General and eminent lawyers would look into the same.

TIWN : Would you accept the notion-“As the real centre of power lies with the Executives, quasi judicial authority like Lokayukta is nothing else but merely a watchdog”?

Justice P.K.Sarkar : No. If powers are given, Lokayukta can make miracle. Corruption cases will be checked if appropriate powers are accorded. General Public is the worst sufferers ….. .. (after a pause) …. I feel for the common men, they are always … … yes! I know whenever and whatever I require any documents or anything, I will just have to ask any administrative official be it SDM, DM or any Secretary to the state government and they will give me the things on the next day or the same day but to obtain a certificate or document every other person is losing so much of time. Lions share of the money goes to a limited number of people and common mass is deprived. Unless people come forward with their problems, it will be very difficult for us to do anything. People will have to file complaint against those involved in corruption. We are distributing papers, leaflets and all that to make the people know as how they will file complaints. Government should also circulate, regularly. We have written to the General Administration and Administrative Reforms (GA&AR) department of state for creating awareness in association with us. We lack man power. If they arrange we can do the rest. Though we have approached the GA&AR department two times but they are yet to respond.

TIWN : In last couple of months both media and opposition have exposed number of scams occurred in Tripura. What role Lokayukta is playing, in the regard?

Justice P.K.Sarkar :  (Smiling) …..  I know but I have already mentioned I have no powers to take cases on my own. You see, I, just after knowing the things from a newspaper or somewhere, can not take up the case and make enquiry into the same, to know whether some illegal issues are going on or not. That power has not been given to me by the Tripura state legislatures, though the same is practiced in many states.  

TIWN : What is your take on the issue – According administrative and financial autonomy to Lokayukta?

Justice P.K.Sarkar : Lokayukta is an independent body. Nobody can interfere in my work. No undue requests, perusal or influence has been made to me, till date. I think the officers and public representatives have realised it well that Lokayukta can not be approached for their own interest. I don’t find any difficulty in my job.  The subject of financial autonomy I have taken up with the Government and I talk to the finance department for granting fund to uss. I make the expenditure whatever is required. I don’t feel anything needs to be done, as of now. Government is liberal as regards finance. 

TIWN : In 2011, India ranked 95th in the corruption index of Transparency International, a well known Swiss based global think tank. Having a bearing on the same, what more Lokayukta can do as an anti corruption body?

Justice P.K.Sarkar :  Again …. Lokayukta can do miracle if powers are given. From CM to Police to Peon anybody can be enquired upon by Lokayukta. But properly for me there are no powers of search, seizure and raid. We should know that people are not victimised by financial irregularity and use of public office for personal gains only …. actually what I mean to say is, someone applies for a driving license and it takes five to six months where it is a matter of day or two. Why? 

In Karnataka they can go to any department and if necessary they can make suspension. But Tripura Lokayukta does not possess the same power. Government provides many services like (Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe) SC-ST welfare and such others. Why all such services are not provided in a timely manner? Why a record can not be maintained from point to point, regarding delivery and timelines of the service? Why computers can not be installed in every other department to list the number and dates of petitions filed and to check the actions taken reports? And following the same, penalties can be imposed.

Government service holders are to furnish their property statement, yearly and including their immediate family members too. If it is done properly, not only they will remain cautious but a check can be made on their overall accumulation of wealth. But neither the government asks nor they furnish. In this way the whole system can be geared up, if done without any fail.

TIWN : India lost a staggering $ 462 billion in illicit financial flows due to tax evasion, crime & corruption post independence, according to a report released by Washington based Global Financial Integrity (GFI).What do you personally think are the reasons behind the fact of guilty going unpunished or to be specific what are the loopholes in our system?

Justice P.K.Sarkar :  The first loophole is that no influential man gets punishment or faces the law. They think they are above the law. Law is only for common ones. No case is filed against any influential person. Secondly, the highest corruption checking authority of the country Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is working on a great number of cases. But you would be surprised to know that the conviction rate is only 6 %. You should not assume that those 94 were innocent and if they are why you did harass them? Due to the same, people would lose their morale and faith in the system. …… … …… (After a long pause, when asked to devise some innovative and effective ways not there in the existing structure to curb corruption) ……… See …. this is an unholy nexus involving the Police, bureaucrats and politicians. Coming under the pressure of bureaucrats and influential people, Police succumb to them. These three categories of persons are ruining the state. This unholy alliance needs to be broken.

The erstwhile Tripura Police Act of 1965 was replaced by Tripura Police Act, 2005. Tripura Police are still working under the shadow of the Act of 65 (raising the voice pitch) ….. why they are not accountable to public? Police are not working for us; they are for the influential people. Why Police can not discharge their duties finely? Police are to act for people and law of the land only and for no other issue or thing.

I feel very strongly that common people should be involved in the policy formulation and the decision making process of the government but they are not allowed. That is how they would feel as a part of the administration. But they think as my opinion is not considered why I should be bothered. And thus remain aloof from the administration. Authority should think about this. 

Lastly I would like to say, it is the people who have to change their fate. I will decide my future and no one else. People are the greatest force of any country. Law has not made men. Men have made the law. The definition and/or purpose of law are like … these these things are to be done in this this way …. This should be done … that should not be done and nothing else. People would live in their own way and decide their own future. No law, amendment in the law or no action is enough to ensure justice unless you yourself live a right livelihood.

 

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