The word “Lokpal” is derived from the sanskrit word “loka” meaning people and “pala” meaning protector or caretaker. Together it means “protector of people”. The aim of passing such a law is it to eradicate corruption at all levels of the Indian polity. For a nation to develop it needs to have an extremely well organized and meticulously planned organization. A failure of the administrative set up reflects on the holistic growth of the state, the biggest reason for the failure of the administration can be attributed to the ill effects of corruption. The growth of the country has been plagued by corruption and it has extended its wings through out the entire administrative set up. To root out the menace of corruption the institution of “ombudsman” came up and has played a great role in fighting administrative malpractices.
Historical Background The institution of ombudsman originated in scandinavian countries. 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. It was defined as the parliamentary body supervising judges, government and other officials, and ensuring their compliance with laws and other legal regulations. The embedding of the ombudsman in the constitution was completed by a further law specifying in greater detail the scope of his activities and his legal authority.
The institution of the ombudsman developed and grew most significantly in the 20th century. Ombudsman institutions were on the increase especially in the period after the Second World War when almost a hundred of them were established. The institutions took varied forms and modifications depending on the historical, political and social background of the given country. 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.
Need For Lokpal There are several deficiencies in our anti-corruption systems because of which despite overwhelming evidence against the corrupt, no honest investigation and prosecution takes place and the corrupt are hardly punished. The whole anti-corruption set up ends up protecting the corrupt. 1) Lack of Independence Most of our agencies like CBI, state vigilance departments, internal vigilance wings of various departments, Anti-corruption Branch of state police etc are not independent. In many cases, they have to report to the same people who are either themselves accused or are likely to be influenced by the accused. 2) Powerless Some bodies like CVC or Lokayuktas are independent, but they do not have any powers.
They have been made advisory bodies. They give two kinds of advise to the governments – to either impose departmental penalties on any officer or to prosecute him in court. Experience shows that whenever any minister or a senior officer is involved, their advice is rarely followed. 3) Lack of Transparency and internal accountability In addition, there is the problem of internal transparency and accountability of these anti-corruption agencies. Presently, there isn’t any separate and effective mechanism to check if the staff of these anti-corruption agencies turns corrupt. That is why, despite so many agencies, corrupt people rarely go to jail. Corruption has become a high profit zero risk business. There is absolutely no deterrence against corruption. 4) Lack of Transparency and internal accountability In addition, there is the problem of internal transparency and accountability of these anti-corruption agencies. Presently, there isn’t any separate and effective mechanism to check if the staff of these anti-corruption agencies turns corrupt.
That is why, despite so many agencies, corrupt people rarely go to jail. Corruption has become a high profit zero risk business. There is absolutely no deterrence against corruption. Our anti-corruption laws also have several critical deficiencies, which end up protecting the corrupt. 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 act mandates for creation of Lokpal for Union and Lokayukta for states.
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 that stretched until midnight of the following day, the vote failed to take place for lack of time. 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 and in the Lok Sabha the next day. 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.
The person who is to be appointed as the chairperson of the Lokpal should be 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. 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. 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.
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. The members are appointed by the president on the recommendation of a 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. Jurisdiction of lokpal The jurisdiction of the Lokpal will include the Prime Minister except on allegations of corruption relating to international relations, security, the public order, atomic energy and space and unless a Full Bench of the Lokpal and at least two-thirds of members approve an inquiry. It will be held in-camera and if the Lokpal so desires, the records of the inquiry will not be published or made available t anyone. The Lokpal will also have jurisdiction over Ministers and MPs but not in the matter of anything said in Parliament or a vote given there.
Lokpal’s jurisdiction will cover all categories of public servants. Group A, B, C or D officers defined as such under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 will be covered under the Lokpal but any corruption complaint against Group A and B officers, after inquiry, will come to the Lokpal. However, in the case of Group C and D officers, the Chief Vigilance Commissioner will investigate and report to the Lokpal. However, it provides adequate protection for honest and upright Public Servants.Also 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 central government and any other person involved in act of abetting, bribe giving or bribe taking.
Salient features of The Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013 1) The Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013 provided for Lokpal at the centre having jurisdiction of trying cases of corruption against all Members of Parliament and central government employees. The Lokayuktas have functions similar to the Lokpal, but they function on a state level. 2) The office of the Lokpal and Lokayuktas deals with charges of corruption against any public official and includes the office of the prime minister of the court but with reasonable safeguards.
Both the Lokpal and the Lokayukta deal with charges of corruption against the government and its employees, in fact they even conduct investigations and based on the findings from such investigations they conduct trials. 3) The act lays down the provision to set up a Lokayukta and its set of powers for each state without clearly defining the extent of the same, this has led to various different Lokayuktas being setup, some with more power than the others. In order to create uniformity a proposal to implement the Lokayukta uniformly across Indian states has been made.
The Act provides that all states set up office of the Lokpal and/or Lokayukta within one year from the commencement of the said Act.On the other hand, Lokpal will consist of a chairperson and a maximum of eight members, of which 50% will be judicial members, 50% members of Lokpal shall be from SC/ST/OBCs, minorities and women. 4) The newly enacted Lokpal Act provides for confiscation and attachment of any property of any government official which he or she has come to own through corrupt practices and the same can be done during pendency of proceedings against the said official. 5) The Lokpal Act mandates that all public officials should furnish the assets and liabilities of themselves as well as their respective dependents.
In fact the said Act even guarantees protection to any government official who acts as a whistle blower and as an ancillary a Whistle Blowers Protection Act has also been enacted. 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. 7) Lokpal has power to give directions to prevent destruction of records during preliminary inquiry. Conclusion The institution of lokpal has been a land mark move in the history of Indian polity, The lokpal and lokayukta act 2013 has offered a productive solution to combat the never ending menace of corruption.
The institution of lokpal has tried to bring a much needed change in the battle against corruption in the administrative structure of India but at the same time there are loopholes and lacunae which need to be corrected. 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. Further, the act provides no 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, there is no foolproof way to determine whether the person who is appointed as the Lokpal will remain honest throughout. The biggest lacuna is the exclusion of judiciary from the ambit of the Lokpal. 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. There is a long way to go to ensure transparency and crusade against corruption are still on and yet to reach its destination.