LOKPAL

Almost a year after the country’s first Lokpal was appointed the Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions has notified the Lokpal rules. A notable feature pertains to complaints against a sitting or former prime minister which the rules state that a full bench will decide if an inquiry should be ordered. Also under the rules, if a bench decides to dismiss the complaint at the stage of the admission the records will not be made public. The Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013, commonly known as The Lokpal Act, is an anti-corruption Act of Indian Parliament in India that sets up the institution of Lokpal to inquire into allegations of corruption against certain important public functionaries. They would include the Prime Minister, cabinet ministers, members of parliament, Group A officials of the Central Government.

Lokpal (Complaint) Rules, 2020:

  • The notification, under Section 59 of the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, lays down the rules called the Lokpal (Complaint) Rules, 2020.
  • According to the complaint forms, published as part of the notification, a complainant has to give valid proof of identity, as specified therein.
  • Foreign nationals can also lodge complaints. Only a copy of their passports will be accepted as proof of identity.
  • The complaint can be filed electronically, by post or in person. In case the complaint is filed electronically, its hard copy has to be submitted to the Lokpal within 15 days.
  • No complaints can be filed against a public servant under the Army Act, Navy Act, Air Force Act and the Coast Guard Act.
  • A complaint may ordinarily be made in English, provided that the Lokpal may also entertain a complaint in any of the languages referred to in the Eighth Schedule to the Constitution.
  • Apart from the details of the accused official(s), allegation and the evidence relied upon, the complainant or the authorized signatory will also have to submit an affidavit.
  • Registration/incorporation certificate of the organization, on whose behalf the complaint is made and copy of authorization certificate in favor of the signatory, if the complaint is on behalf of a board, body, corporation, company, limited liability partnership, authority, society, an association of persons or trusts, has to be furnished.
  • The Lokpal bench will decide the complaint in the first instance at the admission stage. The Lokpal may seek other details or affidavit, if necessary.
  • The identity of the complainant or the accused official will be protected by the Lokpal till the conclusion of inquiry or investigation. However, the protection will not be applicable in cases where the complainant herself reveals her identity to any other office or authority while making the complaint to Lokpal.
  • The complaints, whose contents are illegible, vague or ambiguous, which are trivial or frivolous, do not contain any allegation, are not filed within the limitation period of seven years, or are pending before any other court, tribunal or authority, will have to be disposed of within 30 days.

The idea of creating an anti-corruption ombudsman, in the form of a Lokpal, was first conceptualized in 1968 in the fourth Lok Sabha. Thereafter in 1971, 1977, 1985, 1989, 1996, 1998 and 2001 efforts were made to enact legislation to create the institution of Lokpal, but these efforts remained unsuccessful. Over the last few years, the issue of enacting a law to create Lokpal has seen active citizen engagement. Continued civic engagement with the issue resonated with the government and the legislature and led to the passing of the Lokpal Bill in the recently concluded winter session of Parliament. The bill has received parliament’s assent on 01 Jan 2013.

Lokpal Act of 2013:

  • The Act allows setting up of anti-corruption ombudsman called Lokpal at the Centre and Lokayukta at the State-level.
  • Composition: The Lokpal will consist of a chairperson and a maximum of eight members.
  • Applicability: The Lokpal will cover all categories of public servants, including the Prime Minister. But the armed forces do not come under the ambit of Lokpal.
  • The Act also incorporates provisions for attachment and confiscation of property acquired by corrupt means, even while the prosecution is pending.
  • The States will have to institute Lokayukta within one year of the commencement of the Act.
  • The Act also ensures that public servants who act as whistleblowers are protected.
  • 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 percent 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 a minimum of 25 years in 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 with a political party Carries on some business/profession; if so, he would need to quit some business.
  • Term of Office:
    • The term of office for Lokpal Chairman and Members is 5 years or till attaining the age of 70 years.
    • The salary, allowances and other conditions of service of the chairperson are equivalent to Chief Justice of India and members are 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 the Consolidated Fund of India.
    • If the chairperson dies in office or has resigned from the post, the President can authorize the senior-most Member to act as the Chairperson until a new chairperson is appointed. If the chairperson is not available for certain functions due to leave, his job will be done by the senior-most member.

 Jurisdiction and Powers:

  • The Lokpal will have the power of superintendence and direction over any investigation agency including CBI for cases referred to them by the ombudsman.
  • As per the Act, the Lokpal can summon or question any public servant if there exists a prima facie case against the person, even before an investigation agency (such as vigilance or CBI) has begun the probe. Any officer of the CBI investigating a case referred to it by the Lokpal, shall not be transferred without the approval of the Lokpal.
  • An investigation must be completed within six months. However, the Lokpal or Lokayukta may allow extensions of six months at a time provided the reasons for the need for such extensions are given in writing.
  • Special courts will be instituted to conduct trials on cases referred by Lokpal.

 Ambit:

  • For a wide range of public servants from the PM, ministers, and MPs, to groups A, B, C, and D employees of the central government, various rules are in place.
  • If a complaint is filed against the PM, the Act says, “Lokpal shall inquire or cause an inquiry to be conducted into any matter involved in, or arising from, or connected with, any allegation of corruption made in a complaint”.
  • However, certain conditions will apply. The Act does not allow a Lokpal inquiry if the allegation against the PM relates to international relations, external and internal security, public order, atomic energy, and space.
  • Also, complaints against the PM are not to be probed unless the full Lokpal bench considers the initiation of an inquiry and at least two-thirds of the members approve it.
  • Such an inquiry against the Prime Minister (if conducted) is to be held in camera and if the Lokpal comes to the conclusion that the complaint deserves to be dismissed, the records of the inquiry are not to be published or made available to anyone.

 Lokpal itself is also subjected to the Law:

  • The Act also includes the Lokpal’s own members under the definition of “public servant”.
  • The Chairperson, Members, officers and other employees of the Lokpal shall be deemed when acting or purporting to act in pursuance of any of the provisions of this Act to be public servants.
  • It shall apply to public servants in and outside India.
  • It clarifies that a complaint under this Act shall only relate to a period during which the public servant was holding or serving in that capacity.

Author: Shubham siwach

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