Note on a ‘gentlemanly assurance’

On November 17, the Nagaland Government, with a ‘gentlemanly assurance,’ brokered a temporary respite from agitating public, who among other things, were demanding the implementation of Lokayukta in the state.

 

Stating that ‘Corruption kills the nation,’ the resolute protestors were determined not to return empty-handed without the Lokayukta and were camping outside the State Secretariat since November 15.

 

On the third day, the sit-in protest called by the Against Corruption and Unabated Taxation (ACAUT) Nagaland and the Public Service Aspirants of Nagaland (PSAN) under the banner of Public Coordination Committee (PCC), had gained enough momentum, to make the government seek interim respite with ‘gentlemanly assurance.’

 

As per the assurance, the State Government has indicated its willingness to introduce the Lokayukta Bill in the upcoming Winter Session of the State Assembly in December.

 

Corruption – loosely akin to ‘misuse of public office for private gain’ – in its varied avatars has become so deeply embedded in the system and any stems towards a remedy remains futile despite lofty rhetoric from those at the helms of the affairs or the general public. Fighting against corruption, therefore, not only requires firm resolve by rising above tribal, family and party affiliation but also calls for practical and independent institutional framework.

 

The current ‘assurance’ is pertinent toward cleansing the tentacles of systematic and endemic corruption in Nagaland. Due to various reasons, the implementation of Lokayukta institutions in the State has been tardy at best. But such institution is imperative due to the magnitude of corruption in the state.

 

Theoretically, 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.”

 

The trigger was the Administrative Reforms Commission report headed by Late Morarji Desai, which recommended for the establishment of Lokpal and Lokayukta institutions at the Central and State level respectively, for redressal of citizen’s grievances.

 

Maharashtra was the first State to introduce the institution of Lokayukta in 1971 and so far around 20 states have established the same. Nagaland is among the few remaining.

 

However as the consultation process for the draft bill commence, a look into Karnataka’s Lokayukta, considered as one of the strongest, is imperative. Created in 1984, the ambit of the “public servants” under the bill was vast and clearly defined.

 

Those covered by the Act include: Chief Minister; all other 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 and Universities established by or under any law of the Legislature. The State Vigilance Commission was also abolished and all inquiries and investigations and other disciplinary proceedings pending before the Commission was transferred to the Lokayukta. It was supplemented by Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988.

 

Lack of prosecution powers, adequate staff, funds and lack of independence for the want of a strong bill have been common maladies of Lokayuktas in many other states. As the citizen of Nagaland citizen look forward to the transformation of a ‘gentlemanly assurance’ into reality, such concerns must be duly noted.

 

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