Lokayukta demands more teeth to probe graft cases

New Delhi: Amid Delhi government's plan to review powers of the Lokayukta, the anti-corruption watchdog has demanded more teeth to probe graft cases against public functionaries and asked Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit to view the institution as an "aid" for probity in governance rather than an obstacle.

Lokayukta Justice Manmohan Sarin said the watchdog should be given powers of "search and seizure" and conduct probe against bureaucrats besides granting financial and administrative autonomy for its effective functioning.

Unhappy over the Lokayukta's order in February recommending removal of PWD Minister Raj Kumar Chauhan in a tax evasion case, Dikshit had said the government was planning to review the powers of the anti-corruption watchdog to make it "more transparent" and "just".

In the first such case, Sarin had recommended to President Pratibha Patil to sack Chauhan from Delhi Cabinet for trying to protect a leading resort in a tax evasion case.

The order had put the city government on a tight spot.

"The chief minister should view this institution as one which can be used to help her to make the government conform to ethics and probity rather than look the other way. A good political executive will always find the Lokayukta an ally," Sarin said in an interview.

Asked about Dikshit planning to re-examine powers of the Lokayukta, Sarin said the institution should be perceived as supplementing and aiding good governance and brining about probity in administration.

"Why the chief minister feels or thinks that power and jurisdiction need to be curtailed, it is for her to comment or explain why she feels so. I look at the situation in a different perspective. I do not find any conflict in the roles of the Lokayukta and the Chief Minister or the powers to be," he said.

Seeking enhancement in powers including search and seizure, Sarin said in states like Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka, Lokayuktas have separate investigating wings with team of police officials headed by a DGP.

"In the Delhi Act, there is no power for search and seizure. Suppose you are investigating a case of disproportionate asset, you at times need to act quickly to ensure that the evidence is not taken away," he said.

The Lokayukta currently hires private investigator or other agencies to carry out investigation as it does not have any investigating wing.

"We do not have a separate investigative wing unlike in Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh. There, they have DGPs posted with Lokayukta and Lokayukta has his own prosecuting agency. They investigate. It is a full fledge arm of investigation. Here we are handicapped in that," he said.