Background

  • A Lokpal is an anti-corruption authority or ombudsman who represents the public interest. This concept is borrowed from Sweden.
  • An ombudsman is an official who is charged with representing the interests of public by investigating and addressing complaints of maladministration or violation of rights. He is usually appointed by the government or by parliament but, with a certain degree of independence.
  • The Lokpal has jurisdiction over all Members of Parliament and central government employees in cases of corruption.
  • The concept of a constitutional amendment in India has been proposed many times starting in the early 1960s. But the bills were never passed till many years.
  • The Lokpal bill was finally enacted in India on 18 December 2013 as “The Lokpal and Lokayukts Act, 2013”. It seeks to provide for the establishment of the institution of ‘Lokpal’ for the Union and ‘Lokayukta’ for states to inquire into allegations of corruption against certain public functionaries (including Prime Minister, ministers, MPs, Group A, B, C, D officials of the Central Government) and for matters connecting them.
  • The noble idea of Lokpal and Lokayukta has become a political issue that is one of the reasons it has been hanging since such a long time. The term“Lokpal” was coined by Dr. L.M.Singhvi in 1963.
  • Despite the Act being passed in 2013, and intervention of Supreme Court as well, a Lokpal has not been established till date. It was passed in 2013 after civil society agitations.

Recently Retired Supreme Court judge Pinaki Chandra Ghose is the country’s first Lokpal, or the anti-corruption ombudsman. His appointment has been cleared by President Ram Nath Kovind.

Justice Ghose’s name was finalised and recommended by the Selection Committee led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The selection was made weeks after the February-end deadline set by the Supreme Court.

Features of Act

  • The Act allows setting up of anti-corruption ombudsman called Lokpal at the Centre and Lokayukta at the State-level.
  • Composition: The Lokpal will consist of a chairperson and a maximum of eight members.
  • Applicability: 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 also incorporates provisions for attachment and confiscation of property acquired by corrupt means, even while the prosecution is pending.
  • The States will have to institute Lokayukta within one year of the commencement of the Act.
  • The Act also ensures that public servants who act as whistle blowers are protected.

Issues

  • The Act does not allow a Lokpal inquiry if the allegation against the PM relates to international relations, external and internal security, public order,atomic energy and space.
  • 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 them embers 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.
  • 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.
  • It can dismiss serving all India civil servants, a power only president has. It has authority over CBI officers on deputation.
  • With no additional resources, the power to dismiss a case as frivolous or false and fine the complainant.
  • Any alteration of it could lead to accumulation of power either with one of these or with lokpal itself.
  • The threat is further increased by the lack of accountability in presence of sweeping powers.
  • The lokpal bill attempts to alter the balance between three branches of government attained through years.
  • The establishment of Lokayukta and any appointment falls within the domain of the States.

Wayforward

  • The Official Secrets Act might come in between the way of delivering justice,this must be repealed as suggested by 2nd ARC
  • 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 issue of Leader of Opposition in the Selection committee must be resolved by amending the act.
  • 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.
  • It is rightly said by ‘Publius Cornelius Tecitus ‘ that “the more corrupt the state, the more laws”.
  • 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 it 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.
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