Lokpal & Lokayuktas
TOPIC: General Studies 2
- Functions and responsibilities of the Government; Separation of powers between various organs
- Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
- Governance issues
In News: The Supreme Court has fixed a February-end deadline for the search committee on Lokpal to recommend a panel of names for appointment of the country’s first anti-graft ombudsman.
- The search committee is headed by former apex court judge Ranjana Prakash Desai.
- A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi directed the Centre to provide the search committee requisite infrastructure and manpower to enable it to complete its work.
- The bench, also comprising justices L N Rao and S K Kaul, said it would hear the matter again on March 7.
- Attorney General K K Venugopal, appearing for the Centre, told the bench there were certain problems like lack of infrastructure and manpower due to which the search committee was not able to hold deliberations on the issue.
- The top court was also told that the selection panel took note that the search committee was to comprise a minimum of seven people, including chairperson, with experience in anti-corruption policy, public administration, vigilance, policy making, finance including insurance and banking, law and management, etc.
Why in News: The court was hearing a contempt petition filed by NGO Common Cause against the government for delaying the appointment of the Lokpal. Appearing for the NGO, advocate Prashant Bhushan raised doubts on the working of the search committee. Bhushan complained that the working of the committee lacked transparency and the panel must make public the shortlisted names.
Amid repeated demands for such an ombudsman, many attempts were made at legislation, with Lokpal Bills introduced in 1971, 1977, 1985, 1989, 1996, 1998, 2001, 2005 and 2008, but none of these was passed. It was four decades after the introduction of the first Bill that the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act was enacted in December 2013. This was the fallout of a public movement for a Jan Lokpal Bill, initiated by activist Anna Hazare and others such as Kiran Bedi and Arvind Kejriwal. Under pressure at a time when it was facing several allegations of corruption, the then UPA government brought the Bill and it was passed after several hurdles.
Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act
The main function of Lokpal and Lokayukta is –
- to address complaints of corruption,
- to make inquiries, investigations, and
- to conduct trials for the case on respective state and central government
- to help in curbing the corruption in the central and state government
The Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013 provides for establishing a body to be called the Lokpal and headed by a Chairperson:
- who is or has been a Chief Justice of India
- or is or has been a judge of the Supreme Court
- or an eminent person who fulfils eligibility criteria as specified
Of its other members, not exceeding eight, 50% are to be judicial members, provided that not less than 50% of the members belong to the Scheduled Castess, Scheduled Tribes, OBCs, minorities, and women.
For states, the Act says: “Every State shall establish a body to be known as the Lokayukta for the State, if not so established, constituted or appointed, by a law made by the State Legislature, to deal with complaints relating to corruption against certain public functionaries, within a period of one year from the date of commencement of this Act.”
Lokpal 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”. These are to deal with complaints against public servants; the chairperson and members of the Lokpal too come under the definition of “public servant”.
Jurisdiction of Lokpal
The Lokpal Act covers a wide range of public servants — from the Prime Minister, ministers and MP, to groups A, B, C and D officers of the central government.
When it comes to the Prime Minister: Lokpal shall inquire or cause an inquiry to be conducted into any matter involved in, or arising from, or connected with, any allegation of corruption made in a complaint” in respect of the Prime Minister.
- However, it 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.
- Also, complaints against the Prime Minister are not to be probed unless the full Lokpal bench considers the initiation of inquiry and at least 2/3rds 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.
The next step: Once the search committee submits its recommendation for the Lokpal and its members, a selection committee will consider those names and forward them to the President for his consideration.
- The selection committee is chaired by the Prime Minister, and its members are the Lok Sabha Speaker, Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, the Chief Justice of India or a Judge of the Supreme Court nominated by him, and an eminent jurist as nominated by the President.
- Under the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, a Lokayukta is to be appointed in every state within one year of the passing of the Act, but several states are yet to appoint such an institution.
Connecting the Dots:
- What is an ombudsman? Discuss its efficacy as an institutional measure to curb corruption.