LOKPAL

Context

  • Administrative Reforms Commission (ARC) of India (1966–1970) recommended the setting up of two special authorities designated as ‘Lokpal’ and ‘lokayukta’
  • Pattern of Ombudsman in Scandinavian countries and the parliamentary commissioner for investigation in New Zealand.
  • In India, the concept of constitutional ombudsman was first proposed by the then law minister Ashok Kumar Sen in parliament in the early 1960s.
  • The term Lokpal and Lokayukta were coined by Dr. L. M. Singhvi.
  • In 1966, the First Administrative Reforms Commission recommended the setting up of two independent authorities- at the central and state level, to look into complaints against public functionaries, including MPs.
  • In 1968, Lokpal bill was passed in Lok Sabha but lapsed with the dissolution of Lok Sabha and since then it has lapsed in the Lok Sabha many times.
  • Till 2011 eight attempts were made to pass the Bill, but all met with failure. Lokpal
  • In 2002, the Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution headed by M.N. Venkatachaliah recommended the appointment of the Lokpal and Lokayuktas; also recommended that the PM be kept out of the ambit of the authority.
  • In 2005, the Second Administrative Reforms Commission chaired by Veerappa Moily recommended that the office of Lokpal should be established without delay.
  • “India Against Corruption movement” led by Anna Hazare put pressure on the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government at the Centre and resulted in the passing of the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Bill, 2013, in both the Houses of Parliament.
  • It received assent from President on 1 January 2014 and came into force on 16 January 2014.
  • Lokpal & Lokayukta Act 2013 lays the guidelines about the Jurisdiction of Lokpal in India.

Appointment of Lokpal:

  • Lokpal is appointed by the President on the recommendation of a committee headed by Prime Minister which includes the Chief Justice of India, Speaker, Lok Sabha and Leader of Opposition, Lok Sabha and an eminent Jurist as its member.
  • The Lokpal and Lokayuktas (Amendment) Bill, 2016 was passed by Parliament in July 2016 and amended the Lokpal and Lokayukta Act, 2013.
  • It enables the leader of the single largest opposition party in the Lok Sabha to be a member of the selection committee in the absence of a recognized Leader of Opposition.

Structure of Lokpal

  • Lokpal is a multi-member body, that consists of one chairperson and a maximum of 8 members.
  • Chairperson of the Lokpal should be either the former Chief Justice of India or the former Judge of Supreme Court or an eminent person with impeccable integrity and outstanding ability, having special knowledge and expertise of minimum 25 years in the matters relating to anti-corruption policy, public administration, vigilance, finance including insurance and banking, law and management.
  • Out of the maximum eight members, half will be judicial members and minimum 50% of the Members will be from SC/ ST/ OBC/ Minorities and women.
  • The judicial member of the Lokpal either a former Judge of the Supreme Court or a former Chief Justice of a High Court.
  • The non-judicial member should be an eminent person with impeccable integrity and outstanding ability, having special knowledge and expertise of minimum 25 years in the matters relating to anti-corruption policy, public administration, vigilance, finance including insurance and banking, law and management.
  • The term of office for Lokpal Chairman and Members is 5 years or till the age of 70 years.
  • The members are appointed by the president on the recommendation of a Selection Committee.
  • The selection committee is composed of the Prime Minister who is the Chairperson; Speaker of Lok Sabha, Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha, Chief Justice of India or a Judge nominated by him/her and One eminent jurist.
  • For selecting the chairperson and the members, the selection committee constitutes a search panel of at least eight persons.

Salaries & Allowances of Lokpal:

  • Salaries, allowances and service conditions of the Lokpal chairperson will be the same as that for the Chief Justice of India.
  • For other members, these will be the same as that for a Judge of the Supreme Court.
  • All expenses of Lokpal will be charged on the Consolidated Fund of India.

Lokpal Search Committee

  • Under the Lokpal Act of 2013, the DoPT is supposed to put together a list of candidates interested to be the chairperson or members of the Lokpal.
  • This list would then go to the proposed eight-member search committee, which would shortlist names and place them before the selection panel headed by the Prime Minister.
  • The selection panel may or may not pick names suggested by the search committee.
  • In September 2018, the government had constituted a search committee headed by former Supreme Court judge Justice Ranjana Prakash Desai.
  • The 2013 Act also provides that all states should set up the office of the Lokayukta within one year from the commencement of the Act.

Jurisdiction and Powers

  • Jurisdiction of Lokpal includes Prime Minister, Ministers, members of Parliament, Groups A, B, C and D officers and officials of Central Government.
  • Jurisdiction of the Lokpal included the Prime Minister except on allegations of corruption relating to international relations, security, the public order, atomic energy and space.
  • The Lokpal does not have jurisdiction over Ministers and MPs in the matter of anything said in Parliament or a vote given there.
  • Its jurisdiction also includes any person who is or has been in charge (director/ manager/ secretary) of anybody/ society set up by central act or any other body financed/ controlled by central government and any other person involved in act of abetting, bribe giving or bribe taking.
  • The Lokpal Act mandates that all public officials should furnish the assets and liabilities of themselves as well as their respective dependents.
  • It has the powers to superintendence over, and to give direction to CBI.
  • The Inquiry Wing of the Lokpal has been vested with the powers of a civil court.
  • Lokpal has powers of confiscation of assets, proceeds, receipts and benefits arisen or procured by means of corruption in special circumstances.
  • Lokpal has the power to recommend transfer or suspension of public servant connected with allegation of corruption.
  • Lokpal has the power to give directions to prevent the destruction of records during the preliminary inquiry.

What happens when a Charge is made against the Prime Minister?

  • The Act does not allow a Lokpal inquiry if the allegation against the Prime Minister relates to international relations, external and internal security, public order, atomic energy and space.
  • Complaints against the Prime Minister are not to be probed unless the full Lokpal bench considers the initiation of an inquiry and at least two-thirds of the members approve it.
  • Such an inquiry against the Prime Minister (if conducted) is to be held in camera and if the Lokpal comes to the conclusion that the complaint deserves to be dismissed, the records of the inquiry are not to be published or made available to anyone.

How is the Inquiry done by Lokpal?

  • The Lokpal may, after receiving a complaint against any public servant, order a preliminary inquiry (to be completed within 90 days) or investigation by any agency.
  • After receiving the report of the preliminary inquiry, the Lokpal may order an investigation by any agency or departmental proceedings or any other appropriate action against the concerned public servants by the competent authority, or it can order closure of the proceedings.

Removal of Lokpal:

  • For the removal of Lokpal, a petition signed by 100 MPs shall be moved to the President and if after the enquiry of Supreme Court, Lokpal is found guilty, he can then be removed by the President on the grounds of misbehaviour.

Reappointment:

  • Lokpal is not eligible for reappointment, but Lokpal members can become the Chairperson if the tenure is left (If they have age less than 70 years).

Limitations

  • The institution of lokpal has tried to bring a much-needed change in the battle against corruption in the administrative structure of India but at the same time, there are loopholes and lacunae which need to be corrected.
  • Five years have passed since the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act 2013 was passed by parliament, but not a single Lokpal has been appointed till date indicating the lack of political will.
    • The Lokpal act also called upon states to appoint a Lokayukta within a year of its coming to force. But only 16 states have established the Lokayukta.
  • Lokpal is not free from political influence as the appointing committee itself consist of members from political parties.
  • The appointment of Lokpal can be manipulated in a way as there is no criterion to decide who is an ‘eminent jurist’ or ‘a person of integrity.’
  • The 2013 act did not provide concrete immunity to the whistle blowers. The provision for initiation of inquiry against the complainant if the accused is found innocent will only discourage people from complaining.
  • The biggest lacuna is the exclusion of judiciary from the ambit of the Lokpal.
  • The Lokpal is not given any constitutional backing and there is no adequate provision for appeal against the Lokpal.
  • The specific details in relation to the appointment of Lokayukta have been left completely on the States.
  • To some extent, the need for functional independence of the CBI has been catered to by a change brought forth in the selection process of its Director, by this Act.
  • The complaint against corruption cannot be registered after a period of seven years from the date on which the offence mentioned in such complaint is alleged to have been committed.

About Lokpal and Lokayuktas (Amendment) Bill, 2016

  • It also amended section 44 of the 2013 Act that deals with the provision of furnishing of details of assets and liabilities of public servants within 30 days of joining the government service.
  • The Bill replaces the time limit of 30 days, now the public servants will make a declaration of their assets and liabilities in the form and manner as prescribed by the government.
  • It also gives an extension of the time given to trustees and board members to declare their assets and those of their spouses in case of these are receiving government funds of more than Rs. 1 crore or foreign funding of more than Rs. 10 lakhs.

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