News: The Kerala Lokayukta, has referred a case related to alleged nepotism and anomalies in the Chief Minister’s Distress Relief Fund (CMDRF) to a three-member full bench for investigation.

What is Lokayukta?
 It is an anti-corruption authority. The object of Lokayukta system in a state is to make investigation of grievances, allegations against public servants.
 In India, the Administrative Reforms Commission, (1966-70), had recommended the creation of the Lokpal at the Centre and Lokayukta in the states.
 Before the passing of the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act in 2013, several states in India passed laws for creating the Institution of 'Lokayukta'. Maharashtra was first to act in this regards with its Lokayukta body established in 1971.

Who appoints Lokayukta and what is the tenure?
 The lokayukta and upalokayukta are appointed by the Governor of the state. While appointing, the governor in most of the states consults (a) the chief justice of the state high court, and (b) the leader of Opposition in the state legislative assembly.
 In most of the states, the term of office fixed for lokayukta is of 5 years duration or 65 years of age, whichever is earlier. He is not eligible for reappointment for a second term.

What are issues related to Lokayukta?
Absence of clear legislatation
 The Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act 2013 has only one section on Lokayukta, which mandates that states must pass the Lokayukta Act within one year and there is no information about their makeup, powers, or other features.
 States, in fact, have complete autonomy over how their own Lokayuktas are appointed, how they work, and under what conditions they serve.

Delay in resolution
 One of the major challenges faced by the Lokayukta is the delay in the investigation and resolution of complaints.
 The Lokayukta is also dependent on the state government for funding and infrastructure, which can lead to interference and lack of independence.

The majority of Lokpal and Lokayukta offices lack basic infrastructure
 The office has only been formed in 19 states, and the bulk of them are defunct.

No Independent agency and also states have discretion on Appointments of Lokayukta
 Lokpal is not immune to political influence because the appointing committee is made up of members of political parties.
 Lokpal’s appointment can be manipulated as there is no criterion for determining who is an ‘eminent jurist’ or a ‘person of integrity,’ the appointment of Lokpal can be manipulated.

What is the way forward?
 Ensure Transparency in appointments to the Lokpal and Lokayukta.
 The ombudsman’s institution should be reinforced in terms of functional autonomy and manpower availability to combat corruption.
 Greater transparency, access to information, citizen and citizen group empowerment, as well as good leadership willing to be held accountable to the public, are all essential.
 The Lokpal and Lokayukta Act should be amended to provide more powers to the Lokayukta, such as the power to investigate and prosecute cases of corruption against all public servants, including the Chief Minister and the judiciary.
 The Lokayukta should be made more accountable and transparent in its functioning. It should regularly publish reports on its activities, investigations, and outcomes.

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