Lokayukta Has Jurisdiction To Look Into Alleged Corruption In Procuring Pongal Gift Hampers: Madras High Court

Upasana Sajeev

11 Nov 2023 7:30 AM GMT

  • Lokayukta Has Jurisdiction To Look Into Alleged Corruption In Procuring Pongal Gift Hampers: Madras High Court

    The Madras High Court has recently set aside an order of the Tamil Nadu Lokayukta rejecting a complaint to enquire into alleged corruption in the procurement of gift hampers for Pongal in the year 2022. The Lokayukta had, while rejecting the complaint, observed that it could not entertain the complaint as it fell within Section 13(1)(c) of the Tamil Nadu Lokayukta Act 2018 read...

    The Madras High Court has recently set aside an order of the Tamil Nadu Lokayukta rejecting a complaint to enquire into alleged corruption in the procurement of gift hampers for Pongal in the year 2022. The Lokayukta had, while rejecting the complaint, observed that it could not entertain the complaint as it fell within Section 13(1)(c) of the Tamil Nadu Lokayukta Act 2018 read with Rules 24(4) (a) to (d).

    Section 13(1) of the Lokayukta Act states such situations where the Lokayukta cannot hold an inquiry. Section 13(1)(c) talks about administrative action taken in matters which arise out of the terms of a contract governing purely commercial relations of the administration with customers or suppliers except where the complainant alleges harassment or gross delay in meeting the contractual obligation.

    Justice N Seshasayee observed that the exception would be applicable only when the issue fell within a contract or working terms of a contract. The court added that the present complaint was one that alleged corruption in the procurement of the gift hampers which would come within the purview of the Lokayukta.

    The complaint, if read as a whole, only indicates that in the matter of procuring 21 items of gift hamper, there is corruption. What Sec. 13(1)(c) exempts is anything that falls within a contract or working the terms of the contract, but definitely does not include any accusation such as the one levelled by the petitioner,” the court observed.

    The petitioner KR Jayagopi informed the court that he had preferred a complaint to the Lokayutha alleging corruption, acts of malfeasance and impropriety by the respondents while procuring gift hampers for distribution to the under privileged citizens throughout the state during Pongal 2022.

    Jayagopi submitted that there was a violation of the Tamil Nadu Transparency in Tenders Act, 1998 and the rules. He added that the articles procured were of sub-standard quality and were procured at an exorbitant price. The Lokayukta had however rejected the complaint observing that it was not maintainable.

    The court noted that Lokayukta had jurisdiction to enquire into any complaint alleging corruption or abetting corruption or conspiring to engage in corruption and improper exercise of discretion in administrative decisions. Further, it could also enquire into complaints involving persons who could be proceeded against under the Prevention of Corruption Act.

    In the present case, the court noted that all the respondents were either Ministers or officials of the Government who could be proceeded against under the Prevention of Corruption Act and thus satisfied one criteria for the Lokayukta to Act. With respect to the second criteria, the court was also satisfied that since corruption was alleged, the Lokayukta could enquire into the issue.

    The court added that when Lokayukta failed to order an enquiry when the allegations did not fall within the exceptions under Section 13, it would defeat the purpose of bringing in the statutory watchdog.

    To state it differently, where the allegations do not strictly fall within Sec.13(1), then the Lokayukta may not have too many options than resorting to the inevitable course of ordering an enquiry under Sec.19, lest the objective behind constituting a Lokayukta will be in serious peril,” the court observed.

    Thus, the court set aside the order and remanded the matter back to the Tamil Nadu Lokayukta to revisit the issue.

    Counsel for Petitioner: Mr.V.Raghavachari Senior Advocate Assisted by Mr.S.T.Bharath Gowtham

    Counsel for Respondent: Mr.R.Shanmugasundaram Advocate General, Ms.S.Meenakshi, Ms.M.Sneha

    Citation: 2023 LiveLaw (Mad) 348

    Case Title: KR Jayagopi v The Hon'ble Tamil Nadu Lokayukta and Others

    Case No: W.P. No.7920 of 2022


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