Lokayukta demands more teeth to probe graft cases

Lokayukta demands more teeth to probe graft cases

Lokayukta Justice Manmohan Sarin said the watchdog should be given powers of "search and seizure" and conduct probe against bureaucrats besides granting financial and administrative autonomy for its effective functioning.

Unhappy over the Lokayukta's order in February recommending removal of PWD Minister Raj Kumar Chauhan in a tax evasion case, Dikshit had said the government was planning to review the powers of the anti-corruption watchdog to make it "more transparent" and "just".

In the first such case, Sarin had recommended to President Pratibha Patil to sack Chauhan from Delhi Cabinet for trying to protect a leading resort in a tax evasion case.
The order had put the city government on a tight spot.

"The chief minister should view this institution as one which can be used to help her to make the government conform to ethics and probity rather than look the other way. A good political executive will always find the Lokayukta an ally," Sarin told PTI in an interview.

Asked about Dikshit planning to reexamine powers of the Lokayukta, Sarin said the institution should be perceived as supplementing and aiding good governance and brining about probity in administration.

"Why the Chief Minister feels or thinks that power and jurisdiction need to be curtailed, it is for her to comment or explain why she feels so.I look at the situation in a different perspective.I do not find any conflict in the roles of the Lokayukta and the Chief Minister or the powers to be," he said.

Seeking enhancement in powers including search and seizure, Sarin said in states like Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka, Lokayuktas have separate investigating wings with team of police officials headed by a DGP.

"In the Delhi Act, there is no power for search and seizure. Suppose you are investigating a case of disproportionate asset, you at times need to act quickly to ensure that the evidence is not taken away," he said.

The Lokayukta currently hires private investigator or other agencies to carry out investigation as it does not have any investigating wing.

"We do not have a separate investigative wing unlike in Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh.There, they have DGPs posted with Lokayukta and Lokayukta has his own prosecuting agency. They investigate. It is a full fledge arm of investigation. Here we are handicapped in that," he said.

 Sarin said the Lokayukta should be given power to probe the bureaucrats as "it makes no sense" to conduct a probe only against politicians if bureaucrats are also found to be involved in irregularities specially in the same transaction.

"My view is that it is essential to include the bureaucrats. Bureaucrats are under the jurisdiction of Lokayukta in many states.Can you visualise any corruption by a political executive or a minister without any bureaucrat being involved in it or consenting to it.Their roles are so intermingled that one cannot know where one begins and the other ends," he said.

The Lokayukta also sought "financial and administrative autonomy", saying "it is essential for independent functioning of the "conscience keeper".

"For the successful and independent functioning of Lokayukta it is important that it does not have to depend upon the approval to be taken from the public functionaries who we may have to enquire into," he said.

Asked whether Chauhan should have quit following his recommendation for his removal, Sarin chose not to answer it directly but said the competent would discharge its function.

"I would say no comments on this as my job is to do my duty and leave the rest. The competent authority would discharge its function. The legislatures have to do their job.

Each one of us must have respect for individual functionings of the other. Work of Lokyukta is based on doing right thing," he said.

Asked about the rising anger against corruption in the country, he said, "The growing impatience against corruption is a desirable thing.

"It is only when such feeling grows and it catches momentum, effective steps would be taken to contain graft. Laws alone cannot contain it.Our civil society has to make to aware people of the ills of corruption and to have zero tolerance for corruption. Once that is achieved, you would see a significant and noticeable effect," he said.

Asked about criticism that he has been issuing notices to city politicians without having any substance in allegations, he rejected it, saying notices were issued to several public functionaries after MCD confirmed that there were unauthorised constructions in their premises or constructions were carried in violations of norms.

"There have been many complaints including against many of the top public functionaries of the present dispensation which were dismissed by the Lokayukta.One complaint against the Chief Minister and two against two other ministers were dismissed," he said.

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