News:Recently,it has been revealed that almost six years after the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013, was signed into law,several key provisions needed for the anti-corruption ombudsman to function have still not been operationalised.
- The term Lokpal was coined in 1963 but the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act came into force in 2104.However,It was more than five years later in 2019 that the first chairperson and members of the Lokpal were appointed.
- But the institution is still functioning out of a government-owned hotel in Delhi.The Lokpal has also not yet notified a format for filing complaints.
- The process of constituting the Lokpal’s inquiry and prosecution wings has not yet begun and regulations for how to conduct preliminary investigations have not been made.
- The rules for the disclosure of assets and liabilities by public servants have not been notified either.This is a key provision as the amassing of assets disproportionate to the known sources of income is often the basis for a complaint.
- Lokpal is a statutory anti-corruption body responsible for enquiring into corruption charges at the national level while the Lokayukta performs the same function at the state level. The Lokpal and Lokayukta have been established under the Lokpal and Lokayukta Act, 2013.
- The Lokpal became functional after the appointment of its Chairman and members in March 2019.
Members of Lokpal:
- It is a multi-member body that consists of one chairperson and a maximum of 8 members.
- The chairperson and at least half of the members have to be current or former judges of the Supreme Court or chief justices of the high courts
- 50% of the members of the Lokpal is from amongst the SCs, the STs, OBCs, minorities and women.
Wings of Lokpal:The Lokpal consists of various wings.
- Inquiry wing:It is to be headed by the Director of Inquiry,for the purpose of conducting preliminary inquiry into any offence alleged to have been committed by a public servant punishable under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988.
- Prosecution wing: It also have a Prosecution Wing,headed by the Director of Prosecution,for the purpose of prosecution of public servants in relation to any complaint by the Lokpal under this Act.
Powers of Lokpal:
- The jurisdiction of Lokpal includes the Prime Minister, Ministers, Members of Parliament and Groups A, B, C and D officers and officials of the Central Government.
- Lokpal has the power of superintendence and direction over any investigating agency, including the CBI, for cases referred to them by the Lokpal.
- The Lokpal can summon or question any public servant if there exists a prima facie case against the person, even before an investigation agency (such as vigilance or CBI) has begun the probe.
- Further, any officer of the CBI investigating a case referred to it by the Lokpal, shall not be transferred without the approval of the Lokpal.
- Lokpal and Lokayukta Act, 2013 also incorporates provisions for attachment and confiscation of property acquired by corrupt means, even while the prosecution is pending.
Process of investigation:
- The Lokpal may after receiving a complaint against any public servant, order a preliminary inquiry which should be completed within 90 days.
- After receiving the report of the preliminary inquiry,the Lokpal may (a)order an investigation by any agency or (b)departmental proceedings or (c)any other appropriate action against the concerned public servants by the competent authority or (d)it can order closure of the proceedings.
- Further,the Act does not allow a Lokpal inquiry if the allegations against the Prime Minister relates to (a)international relations (b)external and internal security (c)public order (d)atomic energy and (e)space.
- Also,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.