TN notifies inquiries under Lokayukta be held in camera, opposition protest
The Tamil Nadu government has notified rules under the Lokayukta Act which provide for inquiries to be held in-camera and preclude disclosure of the identities of the complainant and public functionary, drawing criticism from the opposition which wants the provisions scrapped.
The proceedings also cannot be disclosed to the public or the press. The new rules have come in for sharp criticism from the DMK which said they would facilitate corruption. The main opposition party demanded that these rules be struck down. After the Tamil Nadu Assembly passed the Lokayukta Bill in July, the opposition had dubbed it as "toothless".
"Every inquiry shall be conducted in private and in particular the identity of the complainant and of the public functionary affected by the inquiry shall not be disclosed to the public or the press or published in any manner whether before, during or after the inquiry," Section 26 of the rules says.
The rules notified in a state government's Gazette recently, however, make it clear that the norm of in-camera proceedings will be "subject to the provisions of the Right to Information Act, 2005".
The RTI Act promotes transparency and access to information under public authorities and it is not clear which aspects of the Lokayukta inquiry or proceedings will be covered under the transparency law. DMK president M K Stalin demanded in a tweet that the provision related to secrecy be rescinded.
He said the institution of Lokayukta envisaged by the government is "without power". The Leader of the Opposition said the chairperson of the anti-corruption watchdog has not been appointed even 128 days after the passage of a Bill.
A complaint, according to the rules, shall be rejected for reasons like non-disclosure of an allegation or if it is "frivolous, vexatious, or not made in good faith". The rules say that no complaint shall be permitted to be withdrawn unless the Lokayukta has satisfied itself about it being a bona fide mistake.
The institution of Lokayukta that can probe allegations of corruption against public servants, including the chief minister, will be headed by a chairperson and shall have four members. The chairperson may be a sitting or retired judge or a person with 25 years experience in anti-corruption policy, vigilance, finance and law.
On July 9, ahead of the passage of the Bill, the DMK and its ally IUML had demanded that it be referred to a Select Committee of the Assembly, calling it toothless.
(With inputs from agencies.)