Lokpal and Lokayukta

Lokpal and Lokayukta-

  • The Lokpal and Lokayukta Act of 2013 established Lokpal for the Union and Lokayukta for States.
  • These organizations are statutory entities with no constitutional standing.
  • They act as an "ombudsman," investigating corruption charges against specific public officials and other relevant issues.

Why do we require such organizations?

  • Maladministration is like a termite, steadily eroding the nation's foundation and impeding the administration's ability to do its tasks. The main reason for this situation is corruption.
  • The majority of anti-corruption authorities lack independence. The Supreme Court has even referred to the CBI as a "caged parrot" and "its master's voice."
  • Many agencies are advisory groups with no absolute authority, and their recommendations are rarely implemented.
  • Internal transparency and accountability are also issues. Furthermore, there is no independent and efficient process to check these agencies.
  • In this background, the establishment of an independent Lokpal was a watershed moment in Indian politics, offering a solution to the never-ending problem of corruption.

What is the origin behind their formation?

The institution of the Ombudsman was officially established in Sweden in 1809.

  • The Ombudsman as an institution developed and flourished most dramatically after World War II in the twentieth century.
  • New Zealand and Norway adopted this method in 1962, which proved to be very important in spreading the notion of the Ombudsman.

On the recommendations of the Whyatt Report of 1961, Great Britain established the institution of the Ombudsman in 1967, becoming the first significant democratic nation to do so.

  • Guyana was the first developing country to adopt the notion of the Ombudsman in 1966. Mauritius, Singapore, Malaysia, and India adopted it.

In India, the notion of a constitutional ombudsman was initially advocated in Parliament in the early 1960s by then-law minister Ashok Kumar Sen.

  • Dr L. M. Singhvi created the terms Lokpal and Lokayukta.

The First Administrative Reforms Commission advocated in 1966 the establishment of two independent agencies, one at the federal and one at the state level, to investigate complaints against public employees, including MPs.

The Lokpal law was enacted in Lok Sabha in 1968, but it expired with the dissolution of Lok Sabha and has lapsed several times since then.

  • Until 2011, eight efforts to pass the Bill were undertaken, but all failed.
  • In 2002, the Commission to Review the Implementation of the Convention, led by M.N. Venkatachaliah, proposed the creation of Lokpal and Lokayuktas and the exclusion of the Prime Minister from the authority's purview.
  • The Second Administrative Reforms Commission, led by Veerappa Moily, proposed in 2005 that the Lokpal agency be formed as soon as possible.

In 2011, the government convened a Group of Ministers, led by Pranab Mukherjee, to propose anti-corruption measures and investigate the Lokpal Bill proposal.

  • The "India Against Corruption" campaign, led by Anna Hazare, placed pressure on the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) administration at the Centre, resulting in the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Bill, 2013, being passed in both Houses of Parliament.
  • It obtained the President's assent on January 1, 2014, and went into effect on January 16, 2014.

What are the Important Provisions of the Lokpal and Lokayuktas (Amendment) Act, 2016?

  • The Lokpal and Lokayukta Act of 2013 was amended.
  • It also revised Section 44 of the 2013 Act, which deals with the clause requiring public officials to provide information about their assets and liabilities within 30 days of joining the government service.
  • It supersedes the previous time restriction of 30 days; today, public employees must declare their assets and liabilities in the form and manner stipulated by the government.

What is the Lokpal Structure?

  • Lokpal is a multi-member body with one chairperson and up to eight members.
  • The Lokpal should be chaired by either a former Chief Justice of India or a former Supreme Court Judge, or by an eminent person of impeccable integrity and outstanding ability, with at least 25 years of specialized knowledge and expertise in anti-corruption policy, public administration, vigilance, finance (including insurance and banking), law, and management.
  • Half of the maximum eight members shall be judicial members, and at least 50% will be from SC/ ST/ OBC/ Minorities and women.
  • A judicial member of the Lokpal must be a former Supreme Court judge or a former High Court Chief Justice.
  • Each non-judicial member should be an eminent individual of unquestionable integrity and exceptional talent, with at least 25 years of particular knowledge and competence in anti-corruption policy, public administration, vigilance, finance (including insurance and banking), law, and management.
  • Lokpal Chairman and Members serve for five years or until they reach the age of 70.
  • The President appoints the members based on the recommendations of a Selection Committee.
  • The selection committee is chaired by the Prime Minister, followed by the Speaker of the Lok Sabha, the Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, the Chief Justice of India or a Judge recommended by him/her, and one distinguished jurist.
  • The selection committee forms a search panel of at least eight people to pick the chairperson and members.

What precisely is the Lokpal Search Committee?

  • The Lokpal Act of 2013 requires the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) to compile a list of applicants interested in serving as chairman or members of the Lokpal.
  • This list would then be forwarded to the planned eight-member search committee, which would shortlist individuals and present them to the Prime Minister-led selection panel.
  • The search committee's names may or may not be chosen by the selection panel.
  • The government formed a search committee in September 2018, led by former Supreme Court Justice Ranjana Prakash Desai.
  • The 2013 Act also mandates that all states establish the Lokayukta office within one year of the Act's implementation.

What falls within Lokpal's jurisdiction and powers?

  • Lokpal has jurisdiction over the Prime Minister, Ministers, Members of Parliament, Groups A, B, C, and D officers, and Central Government personnel.
  • Except for claims of corruption involving foreign relations, security, public order, atomic energy, and space, the Lokpal had jurisdiction over the Prime Minister.
  • Lokpal has no authority over Ministers or MPs in relation to anything stated or voted on in Parliament.
  • Its authority also extends to anybody who has been in charge (director/manager/secretary) of someone/society established by the central Act or any other organization financed/controlled by the central government, as well as anyone else involved in abetting, bribing, or bribing.
  • The Lokpal Act requires all public officials to disclose their assets and liabilities and those of their dependents.
  • It is vested with the authority to supervise and direct CBI.
  • If Lokpal has sent a matter to the CBI, the investigating officer cannot be removed without Lokpal's agreement.
  • The Lokpal's Inquiry Wing now has the authority of a civil court.
  • In exceptional cases, Lokpal can seize assets, revenues, receipts, and perks obtained by corruption.
  • Lokpal has the authority to propose transferring or suspending a public official involved in a corruption investigation.
  • Lokpal has the authority to issue orders to prohibit the destruction of records during the preliminary investigation.

What are its constraints?

  • The Lokpal institution has attempted to bring much-needed reform in the fight against corruption in India's administrative system. However, there are still gaps and gaps that must be filled.
  • Five years have passed since Parliament enacted the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act 2013, yet not a single Lokpal has been appointed, demonstrating a lack of political will.
  • The Lokpal legislation also required states to appoint a Lokayukta within a year of its implementation. However, the Lokayukta has been constituted in just 16 states.
  • Lokpal is not immune to political influence because the appointing committee comprises representatives of political parties.
  • Because there is no standard for determining who is an 'eminent jurist' or a 'person of integrity,' the appointment of Lokpal can be influenced.
  • The whistleblowers received no tangible immunity under the 2013 statute. The provision for launching an investigation against the complainant if the accused is determined to be innocent would only dissuade individuals from filing complaints.
  • The most significant gap is the absence of the judiciary from the Lokpal's purview.
  • There is no constitutional support for the Lokpal, and there is no adequate basis for an appeal against the Lokpal.
  • The specifics of the appointment of the Lokayukta have been left entirely up to the states.
  • To some extent, the CBI's demand for functional independence has been met by a change brought about by this Act in the selection procedure of its Director.
  • The complaint against corruption cannot be lodged beyond seven years from the date the alleged offence is claimed to have been committed.

What are the best future perspectives?

  • To combat corruption, the institution of the Ombudsman should be enhanced in terms of functional autonomy and workforce availability.
  • Greater openness, greater access to information, and citizen and citizen group empowerment are essential, as well as effective leadership prepared to expose itself to public criticism.
  • The appointment of Lokpal needs to be increased in and of itself. The government should address the concerns that have prompted people to want a Lokpal. Simply increasing the size of the government will increase its size but will not necessarily enhance governance. The administration's slogan of "less government, greater governance" should be fulfilled in letter and spirit.
  • Furthermore, Lokpal and Lokayukta must be financially, administratively, and legally separate from those they are investigating and prosecuting.
  • Appointments to Lokpal and Lokayukta must be transparent to reduce the possibility of the wrong persons being appointed.
  • To avoid the concentration of too much power in any one institution or authority, there is a need for a variety of decentralized institutions with proper accountability systems.