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Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Lokpal in India

Definition of Lokpal
The word "Lokpal" is derived from the sanskrit word "loka" meaning people and "pala" meaning protector or caretaker. Together it means "protector of people".

Lokpal is an anti-corruption institution formed under the Lokpal and Lokayukta Act, 2013. The institution works as a government body to investigate and enquire the bribery and corruption complaints of a public official, ministers and secretaries to the government.
Lokpal is an ombudsman appointed to work on citizens complaints  regarding corruption at the central level. On the other hand, at the state level, Lokayukta is set up to take action against the corruption complaints made by the residents of the states.

Historical Background :

The institution of ombudsman first came into being in sweden in 1713 when a "chancellor of justice" was appointed by the king to act as an invigilator to look into the functioning of a war time government. From 1713 the duty of this ombudsman was to mainly ensure the correct conduct of royal officials. The institution of the ombudsman was firmly incorporated into the Swedish constitution from 1809.
In India the ombudsman is known as lokpal or lokayukata.The concept of constitutional ombudsman was first proposed by the then law minister Ashok Kumar Sen in parliament in the early 1960s.The term lokpal and lokayukta were coined by Dr.L.M.Singhvi as the indian model of ombudsman for the redressal of public

grievances,it was passed in loksabha In the year 1968 but it was lapsed with dissolution of lok sabha and since then has lapsed in the lok sabha many times.

Lokpal and Lokayukta Act, 2013 :
The Lokpal and Lokayukta Act, 2013 seeks to provide for the establishment of Lokpal for the Union and Lokayukta for States to inquire into allegations of corruption against certain public functionaries and for related matters. The act extends to whole of India, including Jammu & Kashmir and is applicable to "public servants" within and outside India.  The Bill was tabled in the Lok Sabha on 22 December 2011 and was passed by the House on 27 December as The Lokpal and Lokayuktas Bill, 2011. It was subsequently tabled in the Rajya Sabha on 29 December.

After a marathon debate on 21 May 2012, it was referred to a Select Committee of the Rajya Sabha for consideration. It was passed in the Rajya Sabha on 17 December 2013 after making certain amendments to the earlier Bill. It received assent from President Pranab Mukherjee on 1 January 2014 and came into force from 16 January..

Structure of lokpal :
The institution of Lokpal is a statutory body without any constitutional backing. Lokpal is a multimember body, made up of one chairperson and maximum of 8 members.

Who can become the Chairperson?

The person who is to be appointed as the chairperson of the Lokpal should be either of the following:
  • Either the former Chief Justice of India
  • Or the former Judge of Supreme Court
  • Or an eminent person with impeccable integrity and outstanding ability, having special knowledge and expertise of minimum 25 years in the matters relating to anti-corruption policy, public administration, vigilance, finance including insurance and banking, law and management.
Who can become a member?
Out of the maximum eight members, half will be judicial members. Minimum fifty per cent of the Members will be from SC / ST / OBC / Minorities and women.
  • Judicial Member
The judicial member of the Lokpal should be__
either a former Judge of the Supreme Court
or a former Chief Justice of a High Court.
  • Non-Judicial Member
The non-judicial member should be an eminent person with impeccable integrity and outstanding ability, having special knowledge and expertise of minimum 25 years in the matters relating to anti-corruption policy, public administration, vigilance, finance including insurance and banking, law and management..

Who cannot become the chairperson?
The following persons cannot become chairperson of Lokpal:
  • MPs and MLAs
  • Persons convicted of any offense involving moral turpitude.
  • Less than 45 years of age
  • Members of Panchayats or Municipality
  • A person who was removed or dismissed from the public service.
  • A person who holds any office of trust / profit; if so, he would need to resign from Lokpal.
  • A person who is affiliated to a political party.
  • Carries on some business / profession; if so, he would need to quit some business.
Appointment of Chairperson and members:
The members are to be appointed by President on the recommendations of a selection committee. This selection committee is made up of:
  • Prime Minister—Chairperson.
  • Speaker of Lok Sabha.
  • Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha.
  • Chief Justice of India or a Judge nominated by him / her.
  • One eminent jurist.
Term of Office:
  • The term of office for Lokpal Chairman and Members is 5 years or till attaining age of 70 years..
  • The salary, allowances and other conditions of service of chairperson are equivalent to Chief Justice of India and members is equivalent to Judge of Supreme Court.If the person is already getting the pension (for being a former judge), the equivalent pension amount will be deducted from the salary.
The source of salary for Lokpal and Members is Consolidated Fund of India..
  • If the chairperson dies in office or has resigned from the post, President can authorise the senior-most Member to act as the Chairperson until new chairperson is appointed. If chairperson is not available for certain functions due to leave, his job will be done by senior most member to act as the Chairperson until new chairperson is appointed. If chairperson is not available for certain functions due to leave, his job will be done by senior most member.
Post retirement jobs:
Once a Lokpal chairperson / member has ceased to be so, he cannot take up the following jobs:
  • He cannot be reappointed as chairperson / member of Lokpal.
  • Cannot take any diplomatic assignment.
  • Cannot be appointed as administrator to a Union Territory.
  • Any constitutional / statutory post in which appointment is made by President.
  • Any other office under the government of India.
  • He cannot contest any of the elections such as President / Vice President / MLA / MLC/ Local bodies for 5 years after relinquishing the post.
Who can  remove members of Lokpal?

Members of the Lokpal may be removed by the President after an inquiry by the Supreme Court.  The Supreme Court may inquire based on a reference from the President. Such reference may be made by the President on his own, or on a citizen’s petition if the President is satisfied by it, or on a petition signed by 100 MPs.

Officials of Lokpal:
There are three important officers of Lokpal. They are appointed by Lokpal Chairperson.
  • Secretary to Lokpal
  • Director of Inquiry
  • Director of Prosecution
There is one secretary appointed by the chairperson from a panel of names sent by central government. Active wings of Lokpal are as
  • Inquiry Wing of Lokpal
According to the act, the Lokpal would constitute an Inquiry Wing, which is to be headed by Director of Inquiry. Its function is to conduct the preliminary inquiry into any offence alleged to have been committed by a public servant punishable under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988.
  • Prosecution Wing of Lokpal
According to the act, the Lokpal by notification would constitute a Prosecution Wing. This wing will be headed by the Director of Prosecution for the purpose of prosecution of public servants.

Jurisdiction of lokpal:
A Lokpal can enquire into offences under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 (PCA) committed by:
  • the PM with specified safeguards.
  • current and former Union Ministers.
  • current and former MPs.
  • group A, B, C, D officers.
  • employees of a company, society or a trust set up by an Act of Parliament, or financed or controlled by the central government.
  • employees of association of persons that (i) have received funding from the government and have an annual income above a specified amount; or (ii) have received public donation and have an annual income above a specified amount or received foreign funding above Rs 10 lakh a year.
  • An inquiry against the PM has to be held in-camera and approved by a 2/3rd majority of the full bench of the Lokpal.  The PM cannot be investigated if the complaint is related to international relations, external and internal security, public order, atomic energy and space.
  • The Lokayuktas shall have jurisdiction over the CM, Ministers, MLAs, all state government employees and certain private entities (including religious institutions).
Powers of lokpal:
1) It has powers to superintendence over, and to give direction to CBI.
2) If it has referred a case to CBI, the investigating officer in such case cannot be transferred without approval of Lokpal.
3) Powers to authorize CBI for search and seizure operations connected to such case.
4) The Inquiry Wing of the Lokpal has been vested with the powers of a civil court.
5) Lokpal has powers of confiscation of assets, proceeds, receipts and benefits arisen or procured by means of corruption in special circumstances
6) Lokpal has the power to recommend transfer or suspension of public servant connected with allegation of corruption.
Loop  holes in  Lokpal:
  • Firstly it is not free from political influence as the appointing committee itself consist of  parliamentarians.
  • There is no criteria to decide who is an ‘eminent jurist’ or ‘a person of integrity.’ Thus, this appointment can easily be manipulated.
  •  the act provides no concrete immunity to the whistle blowers. The provision for initiation of inquiry against the relainant if the accused is found innocent will only discourage people from complaining.
  •  there is no foolproof way to determine whether the person who is appointed as the Lokpal will remain honest throughout.
  • The Lokpal is also not given a constitutional backing. 
  • There are no adequate provisions for appeal against the Lokpal. 
  • The powers, composition and scope of Lokayuktas do not find any mention of the act. 
The  institution of Lokpal  in India is a great landmark  to curtail the corruption, but there is a long way to go to  ensure transparency in system. So battle against corruption are still on and yet to reach its destination.