Madras High Court Affirms Lokayukta’s Authority to Probe Alleged Corruption in Pongal Gift Hamper Procurement

Madras HC Law Insider

LI Network

Published on: November 11, 2023 at 16:35 IST

The Madras High Court has overturned the Tamil Nadu Lokayukta’s decision to dismiss a complaint investigating suspected corruption related to the procurement of Pongal gift hampers in 2022.

The Lokayukta, while rejecting the complaint, had cited Section 13(1)(c) of the Tamil Nadu Lokayukta Act 2018, along with Rules 24(4)(a) to (d).

Section 13(1) of the Lokayukta Act delineates scenarios where the Lokayukta cannot initiate an inquiry. Section 13(1)(c) specifically pertains to administrative actions arising from contracts governing purely commercial relations, except in cases where the complainant alleges harassment or gross delay in meeting contractual obligations.

Justice N Seshasayee clarified that the exception applies only when the issue is within the terms of a contract. The court asserted that the present complaint, alleging corruption in gift hamper procurement, falls under the Lokayukta’s purview.

Examining the complaint holistically, the court noted that it focused on corruption in procuring 21 items of gift hampers. Section 13(1)(c), according to the court, exempts issues falling within a contract’s terms but does not encompass accusations like those made by the petitioner.

Petitioner KR Jayagopi informed the court that he filed a complaint with the Lokayukta alleging corruption, malfeasance, and impropriety by respondents during the procurement of gift hampers for underprivileged citizens on Pongal 2022.

Jayagopi argued a violation of the Tamil Nadu Transparency in Tenders Act, 1998, and asserted that the procured articles were sub-standard and acquired at an exorbitant price. The Lokayukta rejected the complaint, deeming it not maintainable.

The court affirmed that the Lokayukta has jurisdiction to investigate complaints involving corruption, abetment of corruption, conspiracies to engage in corruption, and improper exercise of discretion in administrative decisions.

In this case, where all respondents were government officials susceptible to action under the Prevention of Corruption Act, the Lokayukta fulfilled one criterion for action. Additionally, since corruption was alleged, the court found the Lokayukta could inquire into the matter, satisfying the second criterion.

The court emphasized that if the Lokayukta fails to order an inquiry when allegations do not strictly fall within Section 13 exceptions, it would undermine the purpose of this statutory watchdog.

In light of these considerations, the court set aside the Lokayukta’s order and remanded the matter for reconsideration.

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

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