7 PM | Lokpal and lokayukta | 20 March, 2019

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Context

Lokpal selection panel finalised the name of former Supreme Court judge Justice Pinaki Chandra Ghose as the first head of the Lokpal, a national anti-corruption ombudsman.

Brief history

  • A Lokpal is an anti-corruption authority or ombudsman who represents the public interest. The concept of an ombudsman is borrowed from Sweden.
  • The term “Lokpal” was coined by Dr. L.M.Singhvi in 1963.
  • TheAdministrative Reforms Commission (ARC) recommended the enacting of the Office of a Lokpal, convinced that such an institution was justified, not only for removing the sense of injustice from the minds of citizens, but also to instill public confidence in the efficiency of the administrative machinery.
  • The first Jan Lokpal Bill was proposed by Shanti Bhushan in 1968 and passed in the 4th Lok Sabha in 1969, but did not pass through the Rajya Sabha.
  • Subsequently, ‘lokpal bills’ were introduced several times but were never passed. Lokpal Bill is finally enacted in India on 18 December 2013.

Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013

  • The Act allows setting up of anti-corruption ombudsman called Lokpal at the Centre and Lokayukta at the State-level. The States will have to institute Lokayukta within one year of the commencement of the Act.
  • Lokpal consists of a chairperson and a maximum of eight members, of which 50% will be judicial members and 50% members of Lokpal shall be from SC/ST/OBCs, minorities and women. A search committee will prepare a panel of candidates, a selection committee will recommend names from among this panel, and the President will appoint these as members.
A five-member select panel comprising the Prime Minister, the Lok Sabha Speaker, the Leader of the Opposition, the Chief Justice of India and an eminent jurist nominated by the President on the basis of recommendations of the first four members of the selection committee

 

  • Salaries, allowances and service conditions of the Lokpal chairperson will be the same as those for the Chief Justice of India; those for other members will be the same as those for a judge of the Supreme Court.
  • All expenses of the Lok Pal will be charged to the Consolidated Fund of India.

Powers of Lokpal

  • The Lokpal will set about creating its various wings. It will have an “Inquiry Wing, 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”.
  • It will 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”.
  • The Lokpal will cover all categories of public servants, including the Prime Minister. But the armed forces do not come under the ambit of Lokpal. 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.
  • The Act also includes the Lokpal’s own members under the definition of “public servant”.
  • The Act also incorporates provisions for attachment and confiscation of property acquired by corrupt means, even while the prosecution is pending.
  • Donation received under the context of Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) in excess of Rs 10 lakh per year shall be under ambit of Lokpal

Issues with current Lokpal

  • Delay in appointment of Lokpal: First Lokpal is finalised five years after the President had given assent to the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013.
  • Absence of leader of opposition in select committee: Lokpal named is finalised without the leader of opposition in select committee. This defeats an important principle for ensuring the independence of institutions from the ruling party.
  • Non transparency in selection: The norms for short-listing candidates adopted by the search committee have not been made public.
  • Delay in appointment of lokayukta in state: The 2014 act also called upon states to appoint a Lokayukta within a year of its coming to force. While some have temporary vacancies, some states haven’t ever had a Lokayukta. Last year, the Supreme Court asked the chief secretaries of these states the reasons for non-appointment of Lokayukta/ Up-Lokayukta.
  • Dilution of lokpal act 2013: In 2016, an amendment to the Lokpal law was passed, which excluded public servants’ spouses and dependent children from disclosure of assets and liabilities, and said the form and manner of disclosure by public servants would be decided by the government.

Way Ahead

Appointment of Lokpal is welcome step as it gives boost to India’s fight against corruption. Government should make necessary amendments in the Lokpal Act to plug the deficiencies and avoid delay in functioning of Lokpal.  Also, a citizen’s grievances redressal machinery should be established that address all grievances regarding delivery of basic services and entitlements for citizens and ensure transparency and effectiveness

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