The success of the Lokayukta in Karnataka has put the spotlight on the ailing health of this anti-corruption body in Andhra Pradesh. With close to no powers and limited resources, the state’s Lokayukta is only a toothless entity that needs a major overhaul to be effective, say denizens and experts.
Stressing on the need to strengthen this body to curb the rising rate of corruption, those familiar with the state’s Lokayukta not only suggest amendments to the current Act but even appeal for more accountability among the authorities.
Set up with the aim to look into matters of corruption involving public servants and recommend necessary action thereafter, denizens rue how the Lokayukta has done little on that front so far. Its role has largely been limited to handling insignificant cases of little public importance. “But now, considering the increased emphasis on bringing accountability to every government department, it is important to revamp the Lokayukta, which is an effective tool for instilling this sense of responsibility among people,” said K Naresh Kumar, visiting faculty at Bhavan’s College of Communication and Management, echoing the sentiment of many Hyderabadis who have been actively pressing for a revised Lokayukta on various platforms.
Experts also stress on the need to revise the Act (Andhra Pradesh Lokayukta and Upa-Lokayukta Act of 1983) to entrust the body with more powers, providing it with additional workforce and tweaking the profile of people eligible to be Lokayukta. “At present the Lokayukta cannot even take suo moto on any issue unless it is referred to by a department. What is the point in having such a body that does not have any powers or enough resources to act,” said Madhubushi Sridhar of Nalsar University of Law, clarifying that the fault does not lie with the office bearers of the body but its architects. He suggested that the state replicate the Karnataka model that, according to him, is bestowed with more power than even what is being recommended in the Lokpal Bill.
But with the government turning a deaf ear to such recommendations, citizens aren’t too hopeful about the success of Lokayukta in the state. In fact, some even claim that the Lokayukta is already on its death bed. Said former advocate general C V Mohan Reddy, “During my term we had suggested a lot of amendments to the Lokayukta Act such as granting it the power to conduct raids, seize documents, allowing it to bring more government servants under its purview and so on. But most of them were not considered. Unless that is done it is difficult to keep the Lokayukta going.” Reddy said that the onus to make it successful lies both on those manning the institution as well as those drafting its rights and powers.
While the changes are a must in the long run, some are hopeful that the state can make the Lokayukta work even in its current form. “It is not a very weak legislation. Only those implementing it should be a little more bold and accountable. Even now, if the government is strong, it can act on the recommendations of the Lokayukta and make it a success. That is what worked for Karnataka, among the many other things,” said Prof G B Reddy, department of law, Osmania University.
With corruption having become a huge problem that is bothering the general public, it is high time that the Lokayukta Act of Andhra Pradesh is revamped so as to arm the body with powers like that of its counterpart in Karnataka. The Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB) – now a toothless agency – should be put under the Lokayukata and should act as the investigative arm of the Lokayukta office. Lastly the procedure of appointment of the Lokayukta should be transparent and involve public men of unimpeachable reputation. Left to the government, there will be a tendency to appoint ‘yes men’ even for this position. TOI