HC orders State to explain action taken to appoint Lokayukta, annual expense on institution
Saturday, 18 March 2023 | PNS | NAINITAL
The Uttarakhand High Court has directed the State government to submit an affidavit informing the court about actions taken so far for appointment of a Lokayukta in Uttarakhand and provide year-wise information on expenditure incurred on the institution from its establishment till March 31 this year. The division bench of chief justice Vipin Sanghi and justice Alok Kumar Verma issued this direction while hearing on a public interest filed by Haldwani resident Ravi Shankar Joshi regarding the appointment of a Lokayukta and the active function of this institution in the State. The matter has been listed for hearing next on May 8.
The petitioner has stated that the State government has not yet appointed a Lokayukta while at the same time about Rs two to three crore are being spent on an annual basis on the institution. The PIL mentions that while the Lokayukta in Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh are taking strict action against corruption, in Uttarakhand where various scams keep coming to the fore, even the minor cases have to be brought to the High Court. The petitioner further contended that investigation agencies like Vigilance department and Special Investigation Team have put major scams like the NH-74 compensation scam, Social Welfare department scholarship scam and NHM medicine purchase scam in the Health department on the backburner. Citing these examples, the petitioner has sought the appointment of a Lokayukta to ensure independent and impartial inquiry into such scams. He has further stated that presently all the investigation agencies are under the purview of the State government with the political leadership of the State having full control over them.
At present there is no investigation agency in the State which has the right to register a case of corruption against any gazetted officer without first taking the permission of the State government. In the present system, there is no agency in the State free of the government’s influence and interference which conducts an independent and impartial investigation or takes action against the chief minister or any public servant. The Vigilance department is publicised as independent and impartial but it is also a part of the State Police department which is controlled by the Police headquarters, Vigilance or chief minister’s office. The political leadership has complete control over various aspects of the actions taken by such investigation agencies, the petitioner has stated. He has further contended that any agency has so far not set an example of independent and impartial investigation in cases pertaining to recruitment examination paper leaks, numerous cases of corruption in mining, land deals and administration along with the considerable assets amassed by public representatives and public servants in the State.
During Assembly election campaigns, political parties had promised an empowered Lokayukta to end corruption in the State after formation of their government but this has not been done so far, the PIL states.