Welcoming the changes in the draft Lokayukta Bill, former high court judge MF Saldanha has called the proposed legislation revolutionary. “It has a few drawbacks but most of the mentioned points can be welcomed,” he told dna.
At present, the lokayukta along with two upalokayuktas was handling all the cases of the entire state, which was physically and technically not possible. “The state has a huge volume of cases and to reduce the lokayutka’s workload and facilitate disposal of cases in a short time, additional members are required. This change can be seen in the new proposal,” Saldanha said.
Decentralisation is an important proposal in the new bill. Till now, people have had to travel from across the state to Bangalore to file complaints with the lokayutka. Subsequently, they have to travel hundreds of kilometers to Bangalore for every hearing. Now, the lokayukta can decide where a bench should sit to hear public grievances, he added.
A major drawback in the current Act is that the lokayutka does not have the right to suspend corrupt officials. “It is an absolute scandal where again the corrupt officials use their power to come to power. Change that and give the lokayukta the right to suspend the corrupt officials,” he said.
There is a change in the prosecution set up, which will help the Lokayukta. This is very effective, he said.
The draft bill also speaks about an independent police force for the lokayukta. This is a good move as it avoids transfer of police officials by the state government according to its needs. This will also invite police officers to become a part of the institution. “The draft is silent on the power of the state government to transfer the lokayukta police officials,” he added.
“However, I do not agree with the proposal that inquiry of higher officials and special people be held in camera. Any inquiry for that matter should maintain complete transparency. Having investigation in camera is wrong and not acceptable,” he added.
He said, “The salary scale and allowances fixed for the bench members and the head is acceptable. It is good and sufficient.”
Earlier, when the Lokayukta used to find many higher official corrupt, there were chances of them getting tempted to accept bribe. There was no chance to hold inquiry over the Lokayukta. But in the new system, even lokayukta members could be probed, he added.
“The bench should visit every district headquarters once in 15 days. Since there are 30 districts, there must be 30 members excluding the lokayoukta. It will help in disposing cases in short time,” Saldanha said.