Not just govt, Opposition, all must help fight corruption: Ex-Lokayukta

Former Lokayukta, Justice P Vishwanatha Shetty, says corruption is cancerous and a serious obstacle to the growth of the nation.

Published: 17th April 2022 06:28 AM  |   Last Updated: 17th April 2022 06:28 AM   |  A+A-

Express News Service

Former Lokayukta, Justice P Vishwanatha Shetty, says corruption is cancerous and a serious obstacle to the growth of the nation. The present scenario in the state is painful and disappointing. All concerned, including the ruling party, opposition parties, public and private players who are in business should show a serious commitment to root out maladministration and corruption from the state administration. In an interview with TNSE,

Justice Shetty said that if there is a deficiency on the part of opposition members and fear of counter-attack, they cannot effectively expose the misdeeds of ruling party members. Excerpts:

There are allegations that there is rampant corruption in the state. What can the Lokayukta do?

It is true that there are serious allegations at all levels of administration. The Lokayukta can contain the menace. But in recent years, it is difficult because powers under the Prevention of Corruption Act to deal with corruption cases have been withdrawn.

An honest police officer under the Lokayukta -- an independent agency headed by the former judge of the high court -- can initiate proceedings against both highly-placed corrupt public servants and elected representatives. But that is not possible by a police officer working under the Anti- Corruption Bureau (ACB), which comes under the executive.

He (the police officer) may fear the consequences as there is no protection, as under Lokayukta. More cannot be expected from ACB as it has to take permission from the head of the executive to conduct raids and lay traps against mighty bureaucrats and elected representatives.

What do you think has specifically fuelled corrupt practices among elected representatives and government officials?

When you look at media reports, it can be said that things are going beyond control and corruption is a serious obstacle for the growth of the nation. It cannot be eradicated completely, but can be minimised. People talk of corruption and show no shame in indulging in corruption. Excess money is a danger to society. A political party removed the powers of dealing with corruption from Lokayukta and the other two parties failed to fulfill their promise of restoring these powers and scrapping ACB once they came to power.

The Supreme Court has directed politicians to show sources of their income to contest elections. How can any agency, including the Lokayukta, ensure that the records presented by politicians are authentic?

There are methods and measures to check the authenticity of records. For this, we need upright police officers. Every year, elected representatives file statements of assets and liabilities to Lokayukta. It is difficult to take suo motu proceedings in case the records are not authentic but it can be done if a complaint is filed with supporting material, by way of referring the investigation to ACB by the Lokayukta. If the ACB probe is not effective, Lokayukta can entrust the investigation to some other agency like CID under Section 15 of the Lokayukta Act.

It is said that the Lokayukta is a “toothless tiger”. What are your suggestions to make Lokayukta more effective?

Lokayukta is not toothless, just one or two teeth have fallen or removed by withdrawing powers under the Prevention of Corruption Act. It is only one part. There is another part where disciplinary proceedings can be initiated against public servants or elected representatives if they are involved in corruption and maladministration.

Lokayukta can ask its police wing to investigate and institute disciplinary proceedings against corrupt practices, but it cannot lay traps or conduct raids. It should be binding on the government to entrust an inquiry to Lokayukta if it recommends to do so to deter corruption.

You had said ACB needs to be scrapped and its powers be given to Lokayukta. Do you still want that to happen?

Certainly. Powers under the Prevention of Corruption Act must be restored to Lokayukta. Public servants are being corrupted by private institutions and corporates to get their work done. The institution must be s t rengthened. Not just Lokayukta, the state government must strengthen all its institutions and departments by establishing vigilance wings wherever they are not there, and strengthening them wherever they already exist.

It is not the responsibility of Lokayukta alone, but also citizens, as they should be alert and prevent corruption. Media must do a little more work, as corrupt people are more scared of the media than the police. They feel the pinch of a raid or a trap only when exposed.

How far has education failed in ensuring a corruption- free society?

You can’t say education has failed. Maybe subjects like inculcation of values can be added at high school level. Even then, if the entire atmosphere is polluted, what can the poor teacher do? It is the collective responsibility of teachers, parents, neighbours and society to play a pivotal role.

How important is public participation in stemming corruption?

The real problem is largescale expenditure during elections. The people should not receive money for votes. Only Lokayukta cannot contain corruption. The institution must be supported by the public and other stakeholders.



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