Panaji, March 6: Goa has been given two weeks by the Bombay High Court Bench in Panaji to explain the delay behind the appointment of a Lokayukta (ombudsman) in the state.
Dr. Shekhar Salkar, a leading oncologist through his public interest litigation (PIL) sought the intervention of the court over the delay in setting up of the Lokayukta, even nine months after the presidential assent.
Salkar had asked the court to determine whether the “non-action” of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led coalition government “to appoint a Lokayukta and an Upalokayukta under the provisions of the Goa Lokayukta Act, 2011, is in violation of the constitutional mandate of providing a corruption-free country to the citizens”.
Appointing a Lokayukta in 100 days of coming to power was one of the key promises of the BJP election manifesto.
The promise held great significance to the electorates, especially because the preceding Congress-led regime had been accused of scams, in which then chief minister Digambar Kamat was also indicted in a judicial probe.
The Goa assembly had passed the controversial amendments seeking to increase penalty and even imprisonment for those filing “false and frivolous complaints” before the Lokayukta.
The amendments also allow declarations of the Lokayukta to lapse if the Chief Minister’s Office does not take cognizance of the same in three months. Another amendment allows ministers indicted of graft to hang on to their posts instead of making their resignation mandatory.
According to Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar, the delay for appointment of a Lokayukta was caused first due to the time taken for presidential sanction to the state’s Lokayukta act and later because it could not find a suitable judge.
The amendments to the 2011 act levies heavy penalty to the tune of Rs.1 million on the complainant, if the complaint is found false.