Bhubaneswar: The Odisha government on Monday informed the Supreme Court that it would appoint the in the state by March 31. The office of the anti-corruption watchdog will start functioning from April 8.
Chief secretary Aditya Prasad Padhi submitted these dates in an affidavit while also personally appearing before the apex court during the hearing of a PIL filed by advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay on the implementation of the Lokpal and the Lokayutka Acts by the Centre and the states. “The Lokayukta selection committee in the state, led by chief minister Naveen Patnaik, will meet here on Tuesday to recommend names for the post of chairperson and members of the Lokayukta,” Padhi said.

Sources said a seven-member search committee — formed in December 2018 under the chairmanship of justice Amitava Roy — had suggested five names for the post of the Lokayukta chairperson and three names each for the five members in its report to the chief minister-led panel on January 9.

The selection panel will pick one name each from the suggestions and send them to governor Ganeshi Lal for approval and appointment. Other members of the selection panel include Orissa high court chief justice K S Jhaveri, speaker Pradip Amat, leader of opposition Narasingha Mishra and judge Ananga Patnaik.

When ed, Narasingha said it was unfortunate that the Supreme Court had to intervene in the implementation of the anti-corruption laws. “However, it is better late than never. Odisha’s move is significant as the Centre is yet to appoint the Lokpal,” he added.

Sources, however, said the appointment process would still face some uncertainty as the model code of conduct of the Election Commission was likely to come into effect from early in March for the Lok Sabha and assembly elections.

The Supreme Court had on October 24, 2018, asked the chief secretary to be personally present before it during the next hearing of the matter and ‘come up with a firm commitment on the dates on which different stages of the appointment of the Lokayukta would be completed, as well as the date on which the office of the Lokayukta would start functioning in the state.’

According to the Odisha Lokayukta Act, 2014, the chairman will either be a sitting or a retired high court judge. The six-member Lokayukta panel will consist of at least two judicial members. From among the non-judicial members, there should be women, members of the scheduled caste, scheduled tribe and the minority on rotation basis. The chief minister and his council of ministers, former chief ministers, elected political representatives and bureaucrats will fall within the ambit of the Lokayukta’s powers.

Odisha was one of the first states to pass the Lokayukta Bill; it did so in February 2014. The government notified the Odisha Lokayukta Act, 2014, and the Odisha Lokayukta Rules, 2018, on July 7, 2018.

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