Agartala, Dec 13 (IANS): Pradip Kumar Sarkar, former judge of the Gujarat and Gauhati High Courts, has been appointed as Tripura's Lokayukta (ombudsman) to deal with complaints of corruption, an official said here on Tuesday.
"Tripura Governor DY Patil, on the proposal of the State government, appointed Sarkar as Lokayukta. The Governor will administer oath of office and secrecy to him at a simple swearing-in ceremony at the Raj Bhavan on Friday," the official told IANS. "Tripura Chief Minister Manik Sarkar, State Assembly Speaker Ramendra Chandra Debnath and Leader of the Opposition Ratan Lal Nath held a meeting last month to select the Lokayukta," he added.
Pradip Kumar Sarkar, a 70-year-old law expert, was the judge of the Gauhati and Gujarat High Courts for a period of seven years -- February 1996 to July 2003 -- and headed various commissions and committees in Tripura.
According to a Tripura law department official, the Left Front-ruled Tripura is the first state among the eastern and northeastern states to appoint Lokayukta to look into corruption charges.
The opposition Congress was not in favour of Pradip Kumar Sarkar and pointed out several loopholes in the state's Lokayukta Act that was passed by the state assembly in 2008. President Pratibha Patil gave her assent to the Act last year.
The Chief Minister, who also holds the law portfolio, had said the anti-corruption authority would inquire into any accusation and charges against public functionaries from the level of village head to Chief Minister. "If complaints of any irregularity in Tripura are put forward, even from anonymous person, the Lokayukta can take action," he said.
According to the Lokayukta Act, anyone making a false complaint against a public functionary would be punished with a maximum jail term of one year and/or a fine of Rs 5,000.
Manik Sarkar, a politburo member of the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M), supported the demand for bringing the prime minister under the purview of the Lokpal. "Corruption cannot be eliminated only by formulating laws. The government should go into the source of the fraudulent act. It is also surprising that the debate is now centred around whether the Prime Minister should be included or excluded from the Lokpal," he said.
Nath said there were several loopholes in Tripura's Lokayukta Act and suggested the appointment of an eminent person with high integrity to the post. "According to the Act, Lokayukta has no scope to inquire elected representatives of Tripura Tribal Autonomous District Council though the constitutional autonomous body governs two-thirds of the state's territory," Nath told IANS.
"In every case, permission of inquiry is required from the higher authority of the person concerned. This provision has to be removed," he added.