The court is hearing a petition, filed by Bharatiya Janata Party leader and lawyer Ashwini Upadhyay, seeking appoint of Lokpal at the Centre and Lokayukta in the states. It 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.
The apex court has been dealing with the issue of appointment of Lokayuktas or the anti-graft ombudsmen in 11 other states, including West Bengal, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Jammu and Kashmir, Tamil Nadu, Telangana and Odisha. 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.
Supreme Courts Seeks Explanation
On March 23, 2018, the Supreme Court sought an explanation from 11 states - Jammu and Kashmir, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Tripura, West Bengal and Arunachal Pradesh and the Union Territory of Puducherry - as to why they have not appointed any Lokayukta or Uplokayukta. A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, which was hearing a PIL seeking appointment of an anti-graft ombudsman in every state, had asked 11 States to explain the five-year delay in appointment of anti-corruption ombudsman Lokayukta and Uplokayukta. It had found that several States have not appointed Lokayuktas despite the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act coming into existence in 2013.
While hearing, the bench said that they are convinced that the State Government of the aforesaid States are not interested in appointing the anti-corruption ombudsman. Chief Justice Gogoi snubbed the State governments that all they have to do is to appoint a retired judge as Lokayukt and problems may be many, but the issue is the State Governments do not seem to want a Lokayukta.
Supreme Court Seeks Explanation
The Chief Secretaries of the aforesaid 11 States have to inform the Court as to whether steps have been taken for appointment of Lokyukta/Uplokayukta and if so, the stage thereof. The Supreme Court also demanded to state reasons for non appointment of Lokayukta/Uplokayukta in the aforesaid States to be filed by the Chief Secretaries. After this, the Tamil Nadu Government gave an undertaking to the Supreme Court that the office of Lokayukta will start to function from February 1 next year. Government of West Bengal informed the Supreme Court that the Lokayukta would be functional from January 1 next year. Meanwhile, Telangana submitted that it would appoint a Lokayukta within three months of the formation of a new government. The Union Territory of Puducherry submitted that it would send its Lokayukta Bill for approval to the Union Ministry of Home Affairs. The Nagaland government also gave an undertaking before the Supreme Court that it would appoint the state Lokayukta within three months. The court has asked the Additional Solicitor General for the Centre to apprise it whether the approval process can be expedited.
In its last hearing, the Supreme Court said that in view of the aforesaid statements made by the Chief Secretaries of respective State Governments, they leave it to the concerned authority to complete the process of appointment in the office of Lokayukta within the time undertaken by each State Government.