A Lokpal (“caretaker of people”) is an ombudsman(an official appointed to investigate individuals’ complaints against a company or organization, especially a public authority) the term taken from the sweedon (legal representative) in India.
It has jurisdiction over all Members of Parliament and central government employees in cases of corruption.
When it came into existence ?
Lokpal was formed in 2013 after passing of The Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013 with amendments in parliament, following movement led by Anna Hazare.
- It has counterpart in all the states of India called Lokayuktas.
History of Lokpal
- “Lokpal” was first addressed by Dr. L.M.Singhvi in 1963. The concept of a constitutional ombudsman was first proposed in parliament by Law Minister Ashoke Kumar Sen in the early 1960s.
- The first Jan Lokpal Bill was proposed by Shanti Bhushan in 1968 and passed in the 4th LokSabha in 1969, but did not pass through the RajyaSabha.
- Subsequently, ‘lokpal bills’ were introduced in 1971, 1977, 1985, again by Ashoke Kumar Sen, while serving as Law Minister in the Rajiv Gandhi cabinet, and again in 1989, 1996, 1998, 2001, 2005 and in 2008, yet they were never passed.
- Forty five years after its first introduction, the Lokpal Bill is finally enacted in India on 18 December 2013.
- The Lokpal Bill provides for the filing, with the ombudsman, of complaints of corruption against the prime minister, other ministers, and MPs.
- 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 instill public confidence in the efficiency of the administrative machinery.
- Following this, the Lokpal Bill was, for the first time, presented during the fourth LokSabha in 1968, and was passed there in 1969. However, while it was pending in the RajyaSabha, the LokSabha was dissolved, and thus the bill was not passed.
- The bill was revived several times in subsequent years, including in 2011. Each time, after the bill was introduced to the House, it was referred to a committee for improvements, to a joint committee of parliament, or to a departmental standing committee of the Home Ministry. Before the government could take a final stand on the issue, the house was dissolved again. Several conspicuous flaws were found in the 2008 draft of the Lokpal Bill.
- The basic idea of a lokpal is borrowed from the Office of the Ombudsman, which has the Administrative Reforms Committee of a lokpal at the Centre and lokayukta(s) in the states.
- Anna Hazare fought to get this bill passed, and it did pass on 27 December 2011, around 9:30 with some modifications. These were proposed as the Jan Lokpal Bill. However, Hazare and his team, as well as other political parties, claimed that the Lokpal Bill passed was weak, and would not serve its intended purpose. So the proposed bill by the ruling Congress Party has yet to be accepted in the RajyaSabha.
- As of 29 December 2011, the bill has been deferred to the next parliamentary session, amid much controversy and disruption by the LJP, RJD and SP parties. The media at large, and the opposition parties, claimed the situation had been staged.
More on Lokpal and its movements
Jan Lokpal Bill Movement
Jan Lokpal Bill (Citizen’s Ombudsman Bill) is a draft anti-corruption bill drawn up by prominent civil society activists, seeking the appointment of a Jan Lokpal, an independent body that would investigate corruption cases, complete the investigation within one year and conduct trials for the case within the next year.
Features of Jan Lokpal Bill
- An institution called Lokpal at the centre and Lokayukta in each state will be set up.
- Like the Supreme Court and Election Commission, they will be completely independent of governments. No minister or bureaucrat will be to influence their investigations.
- Cases against corrupt people will not linger on for years anymore: investigations in any case will have to be completed in one year. Trial should be completed in the next one year, so that the corrupt politician, officer or judge is sent to jail within two years.
- The loss that a corrupt person caused to the government will be recovered at the time of conviction.
How will it help a common citizen?
- If the work of any citizen is not done in a prescribed time, in any government office, Lokpal will impose a financial penalty on the guilty officers, which will be given as compensation to the complainant.
- So, you could approach Lokpal if your ration card or passport or voter card had not been made, or if the police are not registering your case, or if any other work is not being done within the prescribed time.
- Lokpal will have to get it done in a month’s time. You could also report any case of corruption to Lokpal, like rations being siphoned off, poor quality roads being constructed or panchayat funds being siphoned off.
- But won’t the government appoint corrupt and weak people as Lokpal members? That won’t be possible because its members will be selected by judges, citizens and constitutional authorities, not by politicians, through a completely transparent and participatory process.
What if some officer in Lokpal becomes corrupt?
The entire functioning of Lokpal/ Lokayukta will be completely transparent. Any complaint against any officer of Lokpal will be investigated and the officer dismissed within two months.
What will happen to existing anti-corruption agencies?
The departmental vigilance and anti-corruption branch of the CBI, will be merged into Lokpal.
Point to remember :
Lokpal will have complete powers and machinery to independently investigate and prosecute any officer, judge or politician.
It will be the duty of the Lokpal to provide protection to those who are being victimized for raising their voice against corruption.
The Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013
The historic Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013 was passed by Indian Parliament paving the way for establishment of an Lokpal (Ombudsman) to fight corruption in public offices and ensure accountability on the part of public officials, including the Prime Minister, but with some safeguards.
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. Selection of chairperson and members of Lokpal through a selection committee consisting of PM, Speaker of LokSabha, leader of opposition in LokSabha, Chief Justice of India or a sitting Supreme Court judge nominated by CJI.
Eminent jurist to be nominated by President of India on basis of recommendations of the first four members of the selection committee through consensus.
Lokpal’s jurisdiction will cover all categories of public servants. All entities (NGOs) receiving donations from foreign source in the context of the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) excess of Rs 10 lakh per year are under the jurisdiction of Lokpal. Centre will send Lokpal bill to states as a model bill. States have to set up Lokayuktas through a state law within 365 days.
Epitome of Lokpal
- Lokpal will have power of superintendence and direction over any central investigation agency including CBI for cases referred to them by the ombudsman.
- A high-powered committee chaired by the PM will recommend selection of CBI director. The collegium will comprise PM, leader of opposition in LokSabha and Chief Justice of India PM has been brought under purview of the Lokpal, so also central ministers and senior officials.
- Directorate of prosecution will be under overall control of CBI director. At present, it comes under the law ministry.
- Appointment of director of prosecution to be based on recommendation of the Central Vigilance Commission.Director of prosecution will also have a fixed tenure of two years like CBI chief.
- Transfer of CBI officers investigating cases referred by Lokpal with the approval of watchdog.
- Bill incorporates provisions for attachment and confiscation of property acquired by corrupt means, even while prosecution is pending.
- Bill lays down clear timelines for preliminary enquiry and investigation and trial. Provides for special courts Public servants will not present their view before preliminary enquiry if the case requires ‘element of surprise’ like raids and searches.
- Bill grants powers to Lokpal to sanction prosecution against public servants.
- CBI may appoint a panel of advocates with approval of Lokpal, CBI will not have to depend on govt advocates.