Friday, August 19, 2011

Lokayukta can’t take up cases probed by panels ,This Takes Away Graft Watchdog’s Power

Gandhinagar: Even if Gujarat government finally appoints a lokayukta after a gap of seven-and-a-half years to inquire into corruption charges in high offices, it will not be able to do much. State law minister Dilip Sanghani has told that the 17 cases of alleged corruption, handed over to the state-appointed justice (retd) MB Shah commission of inquiry, have “automatically gone out of the purview of the lokayukta even if he is finally appointed.”
Sanghani said, “The law is very clear. If appointed, the lokayukta will have no jurisdiction over cases that have been referred to the commission, set up under the Commission of Inquiries Act, 1952.” He hastened to add, “We could not appoint a lokayukta due to lack of cooperation from leader of opposition in the state assembly. The Gujarat high court chief justice would send panel of names to select from. Yet, the opposition leader would insist on a particular name. How could we allow that?”
Sources quoted Section 8(b) of the Gujarat Lokayukta Act, 1986, which says that the “lokayukta shall not investigate any action” which has been “referred for inquiry under the Commission of Inquiries Act, 1952… by the state government.” Further, the act’s Section 7(2) specifies that “nothing… shall prevent the state government from referring the matter to such commission for inquiry if in its opinion the matter is exceptionally a matter of definite public importance.”
While high court lawyers and experts say that for all practical purposes, this amounts to taking away anything that a lokayukta, as and when appointed, would do, a top state official said, “The Shah Commission has been appointed keeping in view these provisions only.” Senior advocate Anand Yagnik said, “This is a clear effort to take away the initiative from lokayukta, whom state government will be obliged to appoint due to pressure from different quarters. It is an effort to preempt any government move to inquire into charges of corruption in high offices.”
The 17 point charges handed over to the just-appointed Shah commission for probe are those which were submitted by the Congress to the President of India as examples of rampant corruption in Gujarat. These include the Sujalam Sufalam scam, Rs 33,000-crore concession to Tata’s Nano car plant, concessions in land allotment to Adani group for Mundra Port and SEZ, allotment of costly prime land of Navsari Agricultural University to Chhatrala Group for a five star hotel; and allotment of coastal regulation zone and forest land and permission to Essar Group.

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