Understanding the Institution of Lokpal

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Introduction

The Lokpal and Lok Ayuktas Bill 2013 provide a uniform vigilance and anti-corruption roadmap for the country, both at the Centre and the States. The act provides for establishing a new institution in the Constitution, which is to be called Lokpal for the Centre and Lok Ayukta for the States.

Almost after six years of passing the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act in 2013 and by endless number of judicial interventions by Supreme Court, the Central government recently has appointed former Supreme Court judge, Justice PC Ghose, the chairman and other members of the Lokpal.

It has taken the government nearly five years to appoint members for the anti-corruption body.

Historical Background

In Administrative Law, such an institution is called the Ombudsman. The institution of ombudsman first came into being in Sweden in 1713. Lokpal and Lokayuktas can be referred to as the ombudsman of India. The concept of constitutional ombudsman was first proposed by the then law minister Ashok Kumar Sen in the early 1960s.

Further, the Administrative Reforms Commission headed by Mr. Morarji Desai in its interim report on “problems of redressal of citizens’ grievances” had recommended the establishment of two new institutions, the Lokpal and the Lokayukta in 1966.

The term Lokpal and Lokayukta were coined by Dr. LM Singhvi as the Indian model of ombudsman for the redressal of public grievances. In 1968, for the first time a bill related to Lokpal was passed in Lok Sabha but it lapsed with the dissolution of Lok Sabha.

After this the bill came for discussion in 1971, 1977, 1985, and 1989. It was in April 2011 that a mass revolution against corruption laid by social activist Anna Hazare comes into the picture with the ‘fast to death’ in Delhi, demanding the government to draft and pass the Jan Lokpal Bill. Finally, it was in 2013 that India got the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act.

Need For Lokpal

The matter of independence of institutions, deficiencies in anti-corruption systems, deficiencies in anti-corruption laws which end up protecting the corrupts, powerlessness of bodies like CVC, multiplicity of agencies, lack of transparency and internal accountability and lack of an institution which can go on to investigate any corruption charges on any public servant had forced the demand for establishment of the institution.

Appointment

As provided under section 4 of the Lokpal and Lokayukta Act 2013, The Lokpal is appointed by a selection committee consisting of:

  • Prime Minister as the Chairperson;
  • Lok Sabha Speaker – Member
  • Leader of Opposition – Member
  • Chief Justice of India – Member
  • An eminent jurist (To be nominated by President on the recommended by the Chairperson and Members)

The person not Eligible to become Chairman

 While the act provides who are eligible to become the Chairman of Lokpal, it also provides, who can never become its Chairman. 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 has been 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 to a political party,
  • Carries on some business/profession; if so, he would need to quit the business

Power and Function

Lokpal, an eight-member committee headed by a chairperson, will have the power to investigate people, who might be acquiring money through corrupt means including Supreme Court and High Court judges, elected politicians including ministers and Prime Minister, all categories of public servants, only the armed forces have been exempted.

The body will also have the power of confiscating property or assets acquired by corrupt means. One of the important powers of the Lokpal is that they can protect such public servants who act as whistle-blowers.

Lokpal will also be given the power to conduct trials in a special court if they feel that the trial is of extreme importance. They can also fine (up to Rs 2 lakh) people for false or inaccurate complaints. It also has the power to punish if its orders are not followed.

Tenure and Salary

The Chairperson and every member shall hold the office for a term of five years from the date on which he enters upon his office or until he attains the age of seventy years, whichever is earlier. The salary of the Chairperson shall be the same as those of the Chief Justice of India (Rs2.8 lakh) and that of other members shall be the same as those of a Judge of the Supreme Court (Rs2.50 lakh).

Image Sources:

Image 1 – Telegraph India

Image 2 – Times of India

Image 3 – Bar and Bench

Image 4 – Transparency International, Berlin

Gautam Kumar Author

Author is a Special Project Correspondent with The Analysis

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