No Need for Lokayukta in J&K: Govt To SC

Says Accountability Commission, SVC Akin To It 

NEW DELHI —  There is no need for a Lokayukta in Jammu and Kashmir as two commissions created under the state laws comprehensively covered the scope of the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, the state government told the Supreme Court on Tuesday.

The state government told a bench of Justices Ranjan Gogoi, R Banumathi and Navin Sinha that the provisions of the Jammu and Kashmir Accountability Commission Act, 2002, and the Jammu and Kashmir State Vigilance Commission Act, 2011, were similar to the Lokayukta Act of 2013.

To this, the bench observed: “You have a parallel set-up (accountability commission) headed by a retired chief justice and comprises of two retired judges. You also have a vigilance commission. You say these two commissions are adequate and you say that in view of the peculiarity of your Constitution, Lokayukta is not needed.” 

“We do not know to what extent your accountability commission and vigilance commission act and whether they are on par with the Lokayukta Act,” the bench asked advocate Shoeb Alam, who appeared for Jammu and Kashmir.

Responding to the query, Alam said both these state laws, under which the two commissions were functioning, were similar to the Lokayukta Act. To buttress his argument, he referred to section 63 of the Lokayukta Act.

The provision says: “Every state shall establish a body to be known as the Lokayukta for the state, if not so established, constituted or appointed, by a law made by the state legislature, to deal with complaints relating to corruption against certain public functionaries, within a period of one year from the date of commencement of this Act”.

When advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay, who has filed a petition on the issue of appointment of Lokayuktas and Lokpal, said the accountability commission and vigilance commission of Jammu and Kashmir were not at par with the Lokayukta Act, the bench asked him, “tell us, what is the difference”.

The bench, which said it would hear the issue raised by Jammu and Kashmir, also told Upadhyay that he could do a comparative study of what the Lokayukta Act provided for and what the two state acts said.

During the hearing, the bench also observed that if the acts governing the accountability and vigilance commissions in Jammu and Kashmir were on par with the Lokayukta Act, then it might be a question of “re-naming” these bodies.

Besides Jammu and Kashmir, the apex court also dealt with the issue of appointment of Lokayuktas or the anti-graft ombudsmen in 11 other states, including West Bengal, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Tamil Nadu, Telangana and Odisha.

The counsel for Tamil Nadu said the Tamil Nadu Lokayukta Bill has been passed by the assembly and follow-up action would be taken.

Similarly, West Bengal’s counsel said the draft of the West Bengal Lokayukta (Amendment) Bill would be placed before the assembly in the next session likely to commence from July 20.

The top court had earlier asked the chief secretaries of 11 states to specify the reasons for not appointing the anti-corruption ombudsman in the respective states even after the law was enacted in 2013.

The court is hearing a petition which has also sought a direction to states to provide adequate budgetary allocation and essential infrastructure for effective functioning of the Lokayuktas.

According to the PIL, the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act 2013, had received presidential assent on January 1, 2014 and came into force from January 16, 2014 but the executive has not established a Lokpal yet.

The petitioner has alleged that many state governments were “deliberately weakening” the Lokayukta by not providing adequate infrastructure, sufficient budget and workforce.

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