|Demand of the question
Introduction. Contextual introduction.
Body. Progress made so far. Issues related to the functioning of Lokpal.
Conclusion. Way forward.
The Lokpal and Lokayukta Act was enacted in 2013 and came into force in 2014. 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.
Poor Progress so far:
- It took more than five years later in 2019 that the first chairperson and members of the Lokpal were appointed.
- 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 institution is still functioning out of a government-owned hotel in Delhi.
- The Lokpal has also not yet notified a format for filing complaints. 6 years later, Lokpal is yet to get prosecution wing.
- While it approved a logo and motto for itself last month, the Lokpal has not yet notified a format for filing complaints. Despite that obstacle, 1,065 complaints were sent to the Lokpal office.
- The process of constitution of Inquiry Wing of Lokpal is yet to be initiated in consultation with the government of India.
- The rules for the disclosure of assets and liabilities by public servants have not been notified either.
The issues associated with Lokpal functioning:
- Delay in the appointment of Lokpal due to the legal technicalities and lack of political will is a major issue.
- The Selection committee and the issue of Leader of Opposition is still lingering and the recent selection of Lokpal didn’t have the views of the opposition party, which is against democratic principles.
- The Act prohibits Lokpal inquiry if the allegations against the PM in certain circumstances. Thus, Lokpal do not have full authority to investigate PM.
- Also, complaints against the PM 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.
- There is not much protection provided for whistleblower in the Lokpal Act, 2013.
- All the cases of corruption in which high officials are involved go to the CBI. Lokpal do not have complete control. This is a major issue which dilutes the independence of Lokpal.
- Through an amendment in 2016, the government has done away with the statutory requirement of public disclosure of the assets of public servants’ spouses and dependent children. The vesting of the power of prior sanction with Lokpal has been almost nullified with amendments in Prevention of Corruption Act which strengthen the requirement to seek the government’s permission.
- Judiciary is totally excluded from the ambit of Lokpal. Thus there is no chance to hold the judiciary accountable.
- The establishment of Lokayukta and any appointment falls within the domain of the States, which is being delayed by the state due to lack of political will.
- There is a need for a mechanism that provides for simple, independent, speedy means of delivering justice by redressing the grievances of the people without succumbing to the clutches of the executive.
- The jurisdictions must be clear so that there is no overlap in the powers.
- Any new piece of legislation even when implemented becomes lengthy and time consuming and stretched over years.
- The Administrative 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 instil public confidence in the efficiency of the administrative machinery.
Looking at the low ranking of India in Corruption on global level, there is a need to check the corruption by strong institutions. Creation of the institution of Lokpal and Lokayuktas by forming its members to function has come up as a welcome step. But progress made so far after the enacting act is not good. Lokpal shall function independently of any political influence so that a proper system of checks-and -balance is maintained in the federal and democratic system of India.