During week-long Anti-corruption Campaign organised by Odisha Soochana Adhikar Abhijan in 23 districts of Odisha from 1st to 7th April 2017, we have undertaken signature campaign to build up public opinion and generate public demand for immediate constitution of Lokayukta with amendment of Odisha Lokayukta Act in the state. Hundreds of the people joining in our campaign have supported our drive by signing memorandum addressed to Hon’ble Governor, Odisha for constitution of Lokayukta in the state. This memorandum has already been submitted to office of Governor, Odisha through Collectors of few district. However, the Memorandum with compiled signature is also sent to Governor, Odisha by post on 25.4.17. The text of Memorandum is presented below for Readers’ reference.
Memorandum to Governor Odisha for ensuring the appropriate amendment to the impugned Odisha Lokayukta Bill 2014 for early institution of Lokayukta in the State.
Hon’ble Governor, Odisha, Bhubaneswar
SUB: Request for sending the impugned Odisha Lokayukta Bill 2014 to the State legislature for reconsideration by it by way of an appropriate amendment for making the State Vigilance an independent and autonomous anti-corruption agency of the State.
Esteemed Governor Odisha,
We, the following signatories , joining in Anti-Corruption Campaign Organized by Odisha Soochana Adhikar Abhijan from 1st to 7th April, 2017 , bring to your kind notice the following matter seeking your judicious action.
(1) As you might know, the historic, anti-corruption law The Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act 2013 after being passed by the Parliament was notified thereafter in Official Gazette on 1st January 2014. One of the most welcome provisions of this Act, which was also cherished by millions of Indians over decades, was that it, by way of amending the DSPE Act 1946, provided for reconstituting the CBI into a free, independent and autonomous agency for investigating into all manners of serious crimes including corruption in high places. Besides, the said Act also armed the Lokpal with the power of monitoring over CBI in respect of the cases of corruption entrusted by Lokpal to CBI for the purpose of investigation and prosecution. Moreover, the said Central law also mandated each State Government to pass a law for institution of Lokayukta within one year of its notification, in sync with the letter and spirit of the Central law.
(2) As a matter of fact, Odisha was one among a few States, which in mid-February 2014 passed Odisha Lokayukta Bill 2014, though too hurriedly and bypassing any consultation with civil society groups engaged around anti-corruption issues. As a result, the Bill so passed suffered from several glaring omissions and commissions, which were also pointed out to the President, Governor and Chief Minister of the State through memoranda addressed to them and as well through media highlights. The most critical lacunae of the Bill, for which the Bill was condemned by all Opposition parties and civil society groups in unison, was its failure to reconstitute the State Vigilance the premier anti-corruption wing of the state into a free, independent and autonomous agency like the CBI was reformed at the Central level. Besides, the said Bill also kept the State Vigilance outside the monitoring purview of Lokayukta even in the matter of investigation of corruption cases referred by Lokayukta to Vigilance.
(3) However, despite all this, the loopholes-ridden Odisha Lokayukta Bill was sent to the President for his concurrence, as it had been made under a Central law. The President reportedly gave his assent to the Bill towards the end of January 2015. But, thereafter, in absence of its notification in the Official Gazette, nobody has any clues as of today as to what actually happened to the impugned Bill.
(4) Needless to say, while the Jan Lokpal Andolan was going on in full swing across the whole nation under the irresistible inspiration of Anna Hazare the iconic anti-corruption protagonist, the people of Odisha while supporting the cause of Lokpal at Centre, demanded too the setting up of a properly constituted and empowered Lokayukta in the State in place of a dysfunctional Lokpal languishing under the toothless Orissa Lokpal and Lokayukta Act 1995. As a matter of fact, the said Act of 1995 along with its institution of Lokpal stood abolished under Section 60 of the freshly passed Odisha Lokayukta Bill 2014.
(5) As irony would have it, Odisha is now stuck up in a Trishanku state, whereby we have neither the old Lokpal nor the new Lokayukta in place to hear the people’s burgeoning grievances around corruption. However, given the choice, we won’t want either the revival of old Lokpal, which like a white elephant proved good-for-nothing during two decades of its nebulous career, or the installation of new Lokayukta proposed under the Bill, which having no semblance of control over State Vigilance would prove equally good-for-nothing albeit its high-profile statutory outfit and its disproportionately huge share in state exchequer.
(6) Under the circumstances, we would earnestly beseech your esteemed authority to consider and act upon the following constitutionally available options in the interest of offering a good Lokayukta law to the people of the State, and thereby help the emergence of a corruption-free Odisha in days to come-
(i) Sending back the impugned Odisha Lokayukta Bill 2014 to Odisha Legislative Assembly for reconsidering it with a view to its proper Amendment;
(ii) Ensuring that such amendment should provide for making the State Vigilance, like the CBI at Central level, into a free, independent and autonomous investigative agency;
(iii) Ensuring that such amendment should provide for exercise of monitoring authority by the State Lokayukta over the State Vigilance in respect of cases of corruption referred by the former to the latter for the purpose of investigation and prosecution;
(iv) Ensuring that such amendment should provide for an adequate and independent budgetary provision for State Vigilance so as to help it discharge its multifarious functions as an anti-corruption watchdog agency properly and effectively;
(v) Ensuring that such amendment should provide for adequate budgetary, infrastructural and manpower provisions to the State Lokayukta so as to enable it to function independently and effectively;
(vi) Ensuring that such amendment, in compliance to the provisions made in Lokpal Act, should provide for entrusting the monitoring authority to State Lokayukta in respect of implementation of Odisha Right to Public Services Act 2012.
Coming to the other item of the agenda i.e. Odisha Lokayukta Act 2014, Sri Singh observed that this Act in its present form won’t serve the purpose of timely investigation and prosecution of the cases of corrupt public servants as envisaged in the parent Central Act, because of its major lacunae i.e. absence of a free, independent and autonomous vigilance organization. Unlike the parent Lokpal Act which provided for reconstitution and empowerment of CBI into a free, independent and autonomous body, the Odisha Lokayukta Act leaves the Directorate of Vigilance the premier anticorruption, investigating arm of the State untouched, and it remains as before a pliant tool in the hands of the ruling clique for punishing or protecting any public servant charged with corruption, to suit their partisan considerations. Demanding suitable amendment to the defective Odisha Lokayukta Bill 2014, several petitions were timely submitted to President, Prime Minister, Governor and Chief Minister by Bhrastachar Birodhi Abhijan and Odisha Lokayukta Abhijan. But, ignoring the same, the Governor approved and President assented to the Bill, as a result of which we have now a lame-duck Odisha Lokayukta Act, which is utterly incapable of guaranteeing any impartial and independent probe into any allegation of corruption leveled against a public servant let alone prosecuting or punishing him within the time-limits laid down in the parent Act. It is therefore required of us to raise our voice aloud for an early amendment to Odisha Lokayukta Act 2014 before the Lokayukta is constituted as per this defective Act.
Dealing with Odisha Lokayukta Act 2014, Sri Behera reiterated Sri Singh’s proposal to launch a sustained campaign for amending the Act with a view to incorporating the provisions that would impart freedom, impartiality and autonomy to the state’s premier anticorruption investigating agency Directorate of Vigilance in line with the provisions of parent Act in respect of CBI. He observed that in the given situation, a separate chapter dealing with Directorate of Vigilance needs to be inserted into Odisha Lokayukta Act, whereby the provision for selection of the DG Vigilance by a 3-member body comprising Chief Minister, Leader of Opposition and Chief Justice of High Court should be made. Besides, the proposed Chapter should provide for the overall control and supervision over the Director Prosecution to be exercised by the DG Vigilance. In absence of a law like DSPE Act in the State of Odisha, the Directorate of Vigilance while discharging its role and functions independently and autonomously for all practical purposes ought to remain accountable to State Lokayukta for the purpose of monitoring and reporting of its activities. With these observations, Sri Behera concluded his talk and asked for comments if any on the same from among the participants.
The Odisha Lokayukta Act 2014 in its present form, we are sure, would merely add to the long list of toothless laws that exist as of today concerning investigation and action against corrupt public servants, be they Ministers, MLAs/MPs, Panchayat leaders or Officials. The call of hour is therefore to unleash from today itself a new campaign, of course a more challenging one, for appropriate amendment to Odisha Lokayukta Act 2014 with a view to making the State Vigilance, the potential investigating wing of would-be Lokayukta, a truly free, and independent, empowered and autonomous body. An alternative to such proposal for amendment to the flawed Odisha Lokayukta Act 2014, around which both Government and civil society may deliberate with concert, is the option of a separate law to be enacted for imparting freedom, independence and autonomy to Odisha Directorate of Vigilance, the chief anticorruption investigating agency of the State, on the lines of DPSE Act 1946 which governs the constitution and functioning of CBI.
It is worth noting that the Abhijan apart from singling out the issue of a toothless Vigilance as the most engaging one in the context of the ongoing public discourse around Odisha Lokayukta law, had also pointed out several related omissions and commissions in the Odisha Bill which are still relevant in critiquing the Odisha Lokayukta Act 2014 in the light of parent Lokpal Act 2013.
Signature of the public joined in Anti-corruption campaign orgnaised by OSAA.