Another ‘Mahabharata’ plays out as Goa tinkers with Lokayukta law

Panaji, Jan 25 (IANS): Months before demitting office, former Goa Lokayukta P.K. Mishra had invoked the Mahabharata, more specifically Kaurava stalwarts, while accusing the Goa government of trying to humiliate his office and ignoring his reports on corruption-related cases.

Mishra, a former Chief Justice of the Patna High Court, completed his term in September last year, but the Goa government’s hunt for his replacement has now kickstarted another ‘Mahabharata’, with the opposition accusing the Chief Minister Pramod Sawant-led administration of trying to dilute the powers of the office of the state’s top anti-corruption ombudsman.

The Sawant-led cabinet on Wednesday (Jan 20) cleared the Goa Lokayukta Amendment Bill, which according to the Chief Minister, was primarily aimed at widening the recruitment pool for the Lokayukta, by making retired high court justices eligible for the post. The act, in its original form, mandated that only retired chief justices and retired Supreme Court justices could be recruited for the position.

But other changes which have been thrown together in the amended bill, have now sparked opposition.

“If they are setting out to weaken and dilute the Lokayukta, there will be not any meaning left to the office. The amendments will clearly weaken the Institution of the Lokayukta,” Leader of Opposition Digambar Kamat told IANS. Kamat said that the Congress party would expose the agenda of the Goa government to weaken the office of the Lokayukta in the ongoing winter session of the state assembly when it convenes on January 25.

Some of the new key amendments made to the Lokayukta law, includes seeking sanction from a competent government authority before initiating an investigation against a public servant, doing away with a deemed acceptance clause of a Lokayukta report against government functionaries, among others.

“This amounts to nothing but institutionalising the process of corruption, instead of fighting it,” Goa Aam Aadmi Party convenor Rahul Mahambre said.

The amendments come on the heels of scathing reports by then Lokayukta P.K. Mishra, whose reports had indicted top political functionaries including former Chief Minister Laxmikant Parsekar and several sitting ministers and bureaucrats in anti-corruption complaints filed against them. Parsekar, has however, refuted the indictment in the case involving renewal of 88 mining leases, saying he had followed the written advice of the state advocate general while sanctioning the controversial lease renewals.

After nearly half a dozen Lokayukta reports involving high profile personalities were shunned and ignored by the Goa government, Mishra, in a letter in May 2020 to then Governor Satya Pal Malik, quoted from the Mahabharata to explain his predicament and question the government’s resolve to crack down on corruption.

“Only a Dhritarashtra and or Gandhari would be unable to perceive anything sinister in what happened on January 12, 2015 and it seems there is no death of Dritarashtra or Gandhari these days in Mera Bharat Mahan,” Mishra said in his letter to Malik.

“For that matter, it also seems there is no dearth of Shakuni in rendering ‘appropriate’ advice. ‘Putra Moha’ seems to have been substituted by ‘party moha’ or other kinds of ‘moha’ in the system of public administration and shouting from the rooftops regarding eradication of corruption, while only paying lip service when the question actual eradication crops up,” he also said.

Chief Minister Pramod Sawant however has rubbished the allegations levelled upon him by the Opposition. “According to me, the law is not weakened (with the amendments),” Sawant said.


Another ‘Mahabharata’ plays out as Goa tinkers with Lokayukta law

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