‘SC notice on Nagaland Lokayukta’

  • Category
    Environment
  • Published
    2nd Sep, 2020

The Supreme Court issued notice in a petition filed by the state government seeking cessation of the Nagaland Lokayukta's powers and functions.

Context

The Supreme Court issued notice in a petition filed by the state government seeking cessation of the Nagaland Lokayukta's powers and functions.

Background

The origin of the Lokayukta can be traced to the Ombudsmen in Scandinavian countries. The institution of ombudsman first came into being in sweden in 1713 when a "chancellor of justice" was appointed by the king to act as an invigilator to look into the functioning of a war time government. From 1713 the duty of this ombudsman was to mainly ensure the correct conduct of royal officials. The institution of the ombudsman was firmly incorporated into the Swedish constitution from 1809.

In India, the idea of an ombudsman first came up in Parliament during a discussion on budget allocation for the Law Ministry in 1963.

  • 1966: The Administrative Reforms Commission headed by Late Morarji Desai in 1966 recommended the setting up of the institution of Lokayukta for the purpose of appointment of Lokayukta at the state’s level-

“to improve the standards of public administration, by looking into complaints against the administrative actions, including cases of corruption, favouritism and official indiscipline in administrative machinery.”

  • 1968: The Lokpal Bill was introduced in parliament but was not passed. Eight attempts were made till 2011 to pass the Bill, but in vain.
  • 2002: The Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution headed by M.N. Venkatachiliah recommended the appointment of the Lokpal and Lokayuktas; also recommended that the PM be kept out of the ambit of the authority.
  • 2005: The second Administrative Reforms Commission chaired by Veerappa Moily recommended that office of Lokpal be established without delay.
  • 2011: The government formed a Group of Ministers, chaired by Pranab Mukherjee to suggest measures to tackle corruption and examine the proposal of a Lokpal Bill.
  • 2013: Lokpal and Lokayuktas Bill, 2013 was passed in both House of Parliament.
  • 2016: Lok Sabha agreed to amend the Lokpal Act and Bill was sent to Standing Committee for review.

The office of Ombudsman in countries

  • The office of Ombudsman has been in existence in Finland since 1919.
  • Denmark introduced the system in 1955.
  • Norway and New Zealand adopted it in 1962.
  • United Kingdom appointed a parliamentary commissioner for administration in 1967.
  • Several countries in the world have adopted the Ombudsman like institution.

Analysis

What is the issue?

  • A three-Judge Bench of Chief Justice of India SA Bobdeand Justices AS Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian issued notice after Advocate General for the State KN Balgopal made submissions on behalf of the state.
  • The petition by the State of Nagaland also prays for the Court to direct the Lokayukta to assign all the pending matters before him to the Upa-Lokayuktas.
  • This is in addition to a prayer seeking an order to prohibit the Lokayukta from exercising his powers and functions as per the Nagaland Lokayukta Act of 2017.
  • The state government claims that since April 2019, the Lokayukta has fallen short of the standards that are expected from a person holding his position.
  • Moreover, his unreasonable demands and "capricious behaviour" have made it untenable for him to continue in the post, it is averred.
    • Lokayukta Justice Uma Nath Singh, who is former Chief Justice of the Meghalaya High Court, also made a request to the Chief Secretary of the state government for relaxation of Section 4(2)(c) of the Nagaland Lokayukta Act in order to facilitate his engagement as an arbitrator in an arbitration matter.
  • The provision makes it impermissible for the Lokayukta to hold any other office.
  • Elaborating on other "arbitrary demands" made by Singh, the petition states that not only did he seek permission to function online from Delhi, but he also made a request before the Chief Secretary of the state for accommodation, among other things.

What is Lokayukta?

  • Lokayukta is an anti-corruption authority or ombudsman – an official appointed by the government or by parliament to represent the interests of the public.
  • Most importantly, it investigates allegations of corruption and mal-administration against public servants and is tasked with speedy redressal of public grievances.

Who are the public servants covered?

The public servants who are covered by the Act include:

  • all Ministers and Members of the State Legislature;
  • all officers of the State Government;
  • Chairman, Vice Chairman of local authorities, Statutory bodies or Corporations established by or under any law of the State Legislature, including Co-operative Societies;
  • Persons in the service of Local Authorities, Corporations owned or controlled by the State Government, a company in which not less than 50% of the shares are held by the State Government, Societies registered under the State Registration Act, Co-operative Societies  

Who is appointed as the Lokayukta?

  • The Lokayukta is usually a former High Court Chief Justice or former Supreme Court judge and has a fixed tenure.
    • The tenure of Lokayukta is generally 5 years. However, in Uttar Pradesh it is 8 years and now in Rajasthan also it will become 8 years.
  • The Chief Minister selects a person as the Lokayukta after consultation with-
    • the High Court Chief Justice
    • the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly
    • the Chairman of the Legislative Council
    • Leader of Opposition in the Legislative Assembly
    • the Leader of Opposition in the Legislative Council
  • The appointment is then made by the Governor.
  • Once appointed, Lokayukta cannot be dismissed nor transferred by the government, and can only be removed by passing an impeachment motion by the state assembly.

How does Lokayukta work?

  • The Lokayukta works along with the Income Tax Department and the Anti Corruption Bureau.
  • The Lokayukta (sometimes referred to the institution itself)-
    • investigates allegations of corruption and mal-administration against public servants
    • tasked with speedy redressal of public grievances.
  • However, public can’t lodge complain for any issue which is more than 5 years old.

States that have Lokayukta

  • Maharashtra was the first State to introduce the institution of Lokayukta in 1971.
  • This was followed by similar acts that were enacted by the states of Odisha, Rajasthan, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Nagaland, Gujarat, Kerala, Tamil Naduand the union territory of Delhi.

Conclusion

The state of Nagaland lags far behind the rest of the country and other northeastern states. What’s more disturbing is that corruption is deep-rooted and pervasive, crippling everything and becoming an accepted norm and a way of life. Corruption has totally ruined the socio-economic and the moral fabric of Naga society. In this situation, the disturbance between the system of governance is not a good thing. Urgent action is needed to deal with the situation and bring normalcy in the state.

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