Lokpal yet to be functional
According to an RTI reply, more than two years after the Lokpal came into being, the Centre is yet to appoint a director of inquiry for conducting a preliminary inquiry into graft complaints sent by the anti-corruption ombudsman.
1. After more than six years, Lokpal is yet to be fully functional. Discuss various issues involved in the functioning of Lokpal?
● A Lokpal is an anti-corruption authority or ombudsmanwho represents the public interest.
● It was four decades after the introduction of the first Bill that the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act was enacted inDecember 2013 despite recommendations by the 1st and 2nd ARC.
● This act was largely in response to the public movement India Against Corruption for a Jan Lokpal Bill.
About the Lokpal and Lokayukta Act, 2013:
● The Act allows the setting up of an anti-corruption ombudsman called Lokpal at the Centre and Lokayukta at the State-level. The Lokpal will consist of a chairperson and a maximum of eight members. The States will have to institute Lokayukta within one year of the commencement of the Act.
● They perform the function of an “ombudsman” and inquire into allegations of corruption against certain public functionaries and for related matters.
Powers of Lokpal:
● Jurisdiction of Lokpal includes Prime Minister, Ministers, Members of Parliament, Groups A, B, C and D officers and officials of Central Government.
● The Act also incorporates provisions for attachment and confiscation of property acquired by corrupt means, even while the prosecution is pending.
● Jurisdiction of the Lokpal included the Prime Minister except on allegations of corruption relating to international relations, security, the public order, atomic energy and space.
● The Lokpal Act mandates that all public officials should furnish their assets and liabilities themselves.
● It has the powers to superintendence over, and to give direction to CBI.
● It has been vested with the powers of a civil court.
● It is empowered under the law to set up its inquiry wing headed by a Director of Inquiry and its prosecution wing headed by a Director of Prosecution.
● Lokpal has powers of confiscation of assets, proceeds, receipts and benefits arisen or procured by means of corruption in special circumstances.
● Lokpal has the power to recommend the transfer or suspension of public servants connected with the allegation of corruption.
The issues associated with Lokpal functioning:
● Delay in appointments of Lokpal: The first chairperson and members of the Lokpal were appointed in March 2019, five years after the bill was passed by Parliament.
● Only inclusion of Leader of Opposition in the appointment committee and not the ‘Leader of largest party’ acted as the reason for not appointing Lokpal for years.
● The inquiry and prosecution wings of the Lokpal are yet to be set up since the Lokpal has been appointed more than 2 years ago.
● Section 44 and rule-making Section 59 were amended to cover ‘only public servants’ with regards to declaration of assets etc. This reduces the coverage of the law for dependents and the spouse.
● Lokpal is not free from political influence as the appointing committee itself consists of members from political parties.
● The appointment of Lokpal can be manipulated in a way as there is no criterion to decide who is an ‘eminent jurist’ or ‘a person of integrity.’
● The 2013 act did not provide concrete immunity to the whistle-blowers. The provision for initiation of inquiry against the complainant if the accused is found innocent will only discourage people from complaining. Also, section 59 provided rules that mandate the declaration of the identity of the complainant.
● The Lokpal is not given any constitutional backing and there is no adequate provision for appeal against the Lokpal.
● The specific details about the appointment of Lokayukta have been left completely over the States.
● The complaint against corruption cannot be registered after seven years from the date on which the offence mentioned in such a complaint is alleged to have been committed.
● 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.