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  • Lokpal and Lokayukta for UPSC

    After an unjustified delay of five years, finally, Justice PC Ghose was appointed as the first Lokpal. It is a milestone in fighting corruption in high places. The concept of an institutional mechanism, or an anti-corruption ombudsman, has been around for over 50 years. It was finally enacted as a law in 2013 and came into effect on January 16, 2014.

    What are Lokpal and Lokayukta?

    • Lokpal and Lokayukta are India’s anti-corruption ombudsman at centre and state levels respectively, to look into corruption charges against certain categories of public servants.
    • They are not constitutional bodies but derive their powers from the statute enacted in 2013 – the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act.
    • Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013 provides for the appointment of a Lokpal at the Centre and Lokayuktas in States, its structure, jurisdiction and powers.
    • The Lokpal act also called upon states to appoint a Lokayukta within a year of it’s coming into force.
    • Though first proposed by the then law minister Ashok Kumar Sen, the terms Lokpal and Lokayukta were coined by Dr L. M. Singhvi.
    • In 1966, the First Administrative Reforms Commission recommended the setting up of two independent authorities- at the central and state level.
    • Lokpal bill was passed in Lok Sabha in 1968 but it lapsed with its dissolution. Several attempts were made since then to pass the bill.
    • Later, the Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution and the Second Administrative Reforms Commission also recommended its establishment.
    • The United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government was successful in getting the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Bill, 2013, passed in both the Houses of Parliament after being pressured by the “India Against Corruption movement” led by Anna Hazare.


    About Lokpal

    • Lokpal consists of one chairperson and a maximum of 8 members.
    • Chairperson of the Lokpal should be either the former Chief Justice of India or the former Judge of the 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.
    • Half of the members should be judicial members (former Judges of the Supreme Court or a former Chief Justice of the High Court) and 50% of the members should be from SC/ ST/ OBC/ Minorities and women.
    • 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.

    Term of Office

    • The term of office for Lokpal Chairman and Members is 5 years or till the age of 70 years.

    Appointment

    • The members are appointed by the president on the recommendation of a Selection Committee.
    • Selection Committee
      • The selection committee is composed of 
        • the Prime Minister who is the Chairperson; 
        • Speaker of Lok Sabha, 
        • Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha,  
        • Chief Justice of India or a Judge nominated by him/her and 
        • One eminent jurist
    • For selecting the chairperson and the members, the selection committee constitutes a search panel of at least eight persons.
    • Lokpal Search Committee would shortlist the names prepared by the DoPT and place then before the Selection panel who may or may not pick names suggested.

    Conditions of Office

    • The Salary allowances and other conditions of service of the chairperson and members are equivalent to that of Chief Justice of India and Judge of the supreme court respectively.
    • They are not eligible for reappointment, cannot hold any constitutional or governmental office. 
    • They cannot contest any elections for a period of 5 years.

    Jurisdiction of Lokpal

    • It includes
      • the Prime Minister, except on allegations of corruption relating to international relations, security, public order, atomic energy and space. 
        • In such a case, a full bench of the Lokpal considers initiation of a probe with the approval of two-thirds of the members. 
        • Such a hearing should be held in camera, and if the complaint is dismissed, the records shall not be published or made available to anyone. 
      • Ministers and members of Parliament, except matters of anything, said in Parliament or a vote has given there
      • Groups A, B, C and D officers
      • Officials of Central Government
    • It also includes any person who is or has been in charge (director/ manager/ secretary) of anybody/ society set up by central act or any other body financed/ controlled by the central government and any other person involved in an act of abetting, bribe giving or bribe-taking.

    Powers of Lokpal

    • It has Superindence over the Central Bureau of Investigation and can give directions to it. If a case is referred to CBI by Lokpal, the investigating officer in such a case cannot be transferred without the approval of Lokpal.
    • Lokpal will have an Inquiry Wing and Prosecution Wing. The Inquiry Wing has the powers of a Civil Court.
    • It can confiscate assets, proceeds, receipts and benefits arisen or procured by means of corruption in special circumstances.
    • It can transfer or suspend public servants connected with allegations of corruption.
    • It has the power to give directions to prevent the destruction of records during the preliminary inquiry.

    Functioning

    • A complaint can be made to the Lokpal for an offence under the Prevention of Corruption Act.
    • The Lokpal may order a preliminary inquiry by its Inquiry Wing or refer it any investigation agency like CBI. However, the Lokpal should establish that a prima facie case exists after seeking an explanation from the public servant as well as his competent authority.
    • With respect to Central Government Servants, it may refer cases to the Central Vigilance Commission.
    • Preliminary Enquiry report should be done within 60 days.
    • A Lokpal bench of not less than 3 members considers it and after giving an opportunity to the public servant, decides on a further investigation – it may dismiss, initiate a full investigation or start departmental proceedings.
    • The preliminary investigation should be normally completed within 90 days.
    • The trials will be held in special courts, which must complete them within one year.
    • Extensions can be made but the total period cannot exceed two years.

    The Lokpal and Lokayuktas (Amendment) Act, 2016

    • The Bill amends the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013 in relation to the declaration of assets and liabilities by public servants.
    • The Lokpal Act requires a public servant to declare his assets and liabilities, and that of his spouse and dependent children.  Such declarations must be made to the competent authority within 30 days of entering the office.
    • The Bill replaces these provisions to state that a public servant will be required to declare his assets and liabilities.  However, the form and manner of making such a declaration will be prescribed by the central government.

    Issues

    • There are loopholes in the law which needs betterment.
    • There was an unjustified delay of 5 years in appointing Lokpal, which shows the lack of political will.
    • Lokpal is not free from political influence as the appointing committee itself consists of members from political parties.
    • There are vague terms like ‘eminent jurist’ or ‘a person of integrity’ which are not properly defined and can be manipulated.
    • The Judiciary is excluded from the ambit of Lokpal.
    • The Lokpal has not been given any constitutional backing.
    • The complaint against corruption cannot be registered after a period of seven years from the date on which the offence mentioned in such complaint is alleged to have been committed. 

    Way Forward

    • The Lokpal needs to be strengthened by giving it a constitutional recognition. 
    • Some changes need to be made, such as ‘leader of opposition’ criteria.
    • Delays in appointments should be avoided. Also, the Lokayuktas in States should also be appointed without any delay.
    • Implementation of the law needs to be foolproof, which will ultimately determine the success of the institution.
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