Corruption is a phenomenon which has been in the society since decades. It has caused severe hindrance in the progress and development of the country. The government has made various efforts to make the process of reporting instances of corruption easier and much transparent. The Lokpal and Lokayukta Act is an anti- corruption Act of the Indian Parliament. The Act provides for the establishment of Lokpal for the Union and Lokayukta for the States. These institutions are statutory bodies without any constitutional status. The introduction of Lokpal has been a landmark move in history of Indian Polity.
The concept of establishing a post in order to keep check on government activity dates back to 1809, Sweden when an ombudsman was officially inaugurated. An ombudsman is a state official appointed to keep a check on government activity in interest of citizens. This kind of system was later adopted by New Zealand and Norway. By the recommendations of the 1961 Whyatt Report, Great Britain became the first democratic nation to adopt this system.
The concept of ombudsman in India was first proposed by the former law minister Ashok Kumar Sen. Subsequently, the term Lokpal and Lokayukta were coined by Dr. L. M. Singhvi, former member of Rajya Sabha. The first Lokpal Bill was proposed by Advocate Shanti Bhushan in 1968. Forty-five years after its first draft and after ten attempts, the bill was finally enacted in India in 2013. Maharashtra was the first state to introduce Lokayukta through The Maharashtra Lokayukta and Upa- Lokayuktas Act in 1971.
HIGHLIGHTS OF THE ACT
Extent and Applicability:
The Act extends to the whole of India. It applies to public servants in and outside India.
Establishment and Structure of Lokpal:
Section 3 provides for the establishment of a Lokpal. The structure of a Lokpal shall be as follows-
- It shall consist of a chairperson, who is or has been a Chief Justice of India or a Judge of the Supreme Court or a person of impeccable integrity and having outstanding knowledge and expertise of not less than twenty-five years in matters with respect to anti- corruption, public administration, banking, law and management.
- The number of members shall not exceed the limit of eight out of whom fifty percent shall be judicial members. A minimum of fifty percent of the members shall be from schedule caste, schedule tribe, other backward classes, minorities and women.
- The Chairperson or Member shall not be;
(a.) A member of parliament or member of legislature of any state of union territory
(b.) A person convicted of any offence involving immorality
(c.) A person of less than forty- five years of age as on date of assuming office
(d.) A member of Panchayat or Municipality
(e.) A person who has been removed or dismissed from public service
According to Section 4, the Chairperson and Members shall be appointed by the President on the recommendations of a Selection Committee.
The Selection Committee shall consist of-
- Prime Minister as the Chairperson
- Speaker of the House of the People as Member
- Leader of Opposition in House of People as Member
- Chief Justice of India or Judge of Supreme Court as Member
- On the recommendation of the Chairperson and Members, an eminent jurist
The Chairperson and Member may hold office for a term of five years or until he attains the age of seventy, whichever is earlier.
The selection of the Chairperson and Members is carried out by a Search Committee comprising of at least seven persons having outstanding knowledge and expertise in matters related to public administration, policy making, vigilance, banking, law and management.
Fifty percent of the members of the Search Committee shall be from among the persons belonging to the scheduled castes, scheduled tribes, other backward classes, minorities and women.
Secretary and Staff of Lokpal:
In accordance to Section 10, there shall be-
- A Secretary to the Lokpal in the rank of Secretary to the Government of India.
- A Director of Inquiry and a Director of Prosecution not below the rank of Additional Secretary to the Government of India or equivalent
Inquiry and Prosecution Wing:
Section 11 constitutes an Inquiry Wing headed by the Director of Inquiry. It would serve the purpose of conducting a preliminary inquiry into any offence allegedly committed by a public servant punishable under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988.
Section 12 constitutes a Prosecution Wing headed by the Director of Prosecution. It would serve the purpose of prosecuting a public servant if held guilty under the Act. Director must also file a case with relevant findings before the Special Court.
Jurisdiction of Lokpal:
In accordance with Section 14, the Jurisdiction of Lokpal extends to-
- Any person who presently or formerly has been the Prime Minister. The Jurisdiction of the Lokpal with respect to the Prime Minister excludes allegations of corruption with regards to matters of International Relations, Security, Public Order, Atomic Energy and Space.
- Any person who presently or formerly has been Minister of Union. The Lokpal does not have jurisdiction over any speech made by the Minister in the Parliament or any vote casted.
- Any person who presently or formerly has been member of either House of Parliament. The Lokpal does not have jurisdiction over any speech made by the respective Member in the Parliament or any vote casted.
- Any Group A, B, C and D official
- Any person who presently of formerly has been a chairperson, member, officer, or employee in any Board or Corporation or Society or Trust established by an Act of Parliament
- Any person involved in the act of abetting, bribe, or conspiracy relating to any allegation of corruption.
Powers and Duties of Lokpal:
- The Lokpal has been granted the powers to superintendence over, and to give direction to the Central Bureau of Investigation as per Section 25. Without the approval of the Lokpal, no case can be transferred by the investigating officer of the Central Bureau of Investigation if referred by the Lokpal.
- The Central Bureau of Investigation may appoint a panel of advocates for conducting cases referred to it by the Lokpal by obtaining consent from Lokpal.
- The Lokpal has the authority to direct any agency to whom investigation has been given to search and seize any document that is relevant for the investigation under the Act.
- The Inquiry Wing of the Lokpal has been vested with powers of a Civil Court.
- The Lokpal for the purpose of conducting any preliminary inquiry or investigation may utilize the services of any officer or organization.
- The Lokpal has been vested with the power to confiscate assets, proceeds, receipts, and benefits arisen or procured by means of corruption.
- The Lokpal has the power to give directions to prevent destruction of records during preliminary inquiry. It may issue appropriate directions to a public servant entrusted with preparation or custody of any document or record.
- It is the duty of the Lokpal to present annually a report on the duties and functions discharged to the President.
- The Lokpal must provide legal assistance to every person against whom a complaint has been made.
Offences and Penalties:
Section 46 states that any person making a false complaint shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year along with a fine which may extend to one lakh rupees.
If an offence has been committed by any society or associations of persons, then every person who is responsible for the conduct of the business or affairs of the society shall be held liable.
Establishment of Lokayukta:
Section 63 states that the State shall establish a body known as Lokayukta. The objective is to deal with cases and complaints related to corruption against public functionaries, within a period of one year from date of commencement of this Act.
The Chief Minister appoints a Chairperson for the Lokayukta after consultation with the Chief Justice of High Court, Speaker of the Legislative Assembly and Chairman of Legislative Council.
The Lokpal and Lokayukta Act of 2013, is observed to be silent on various crucial matters that play a vital role in the process of eradicating corruption. We can observe the following:
- No protection to Whistleblowers: The Act does not provide any kind of protection to whistle blowers.
- Un- free procedure by Selection Committee: The committee consists of members from political parties. Thus, the committee may not be able to adopt fair selection procedure as it is not fully free from external influence.
- Major focus on Lokpal: One of the major concerns is that the Act seems to focus heavily on Lokpal. The Act does not adequately provide the powers and functions of the Lokayukta.
- Time Limitation in certain cases: The Act does not permit the Lokapal to investigate in complaints that date back to seven years or more. This may cause hindrance in the process of unveiling even the minute instances of corruption.
- No Constitutional Backing: The Lokpal does not have any constitutional backing.
The Lokpal and Lokayukta Act of 2013 was brought with the purpose of reducing corruption at various levels of the government. Greater transparency, empowerment of citizens and increasing awareness about tools such as Right to Information, Lokpal Act is required. The slogan “less government and more governance” should be followed in its true spirit. The anti- corruption movement in India has a long path ahead.
Author: Arisia K,