Lokpal

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    In Context

    • The Lokpal of India, recently submitted to a parliamentary panel that “it has not prosecuted even a single person accused of graft till date.”

    More about the news

    • About:
      • The Lokpal of India,  the country’s first anti-corruption body instituted four years ago to investigate complaints against public functionaries
        • Though the Act was passed in 2013, the country’s first Lokpal, was appointed on March 19, 2019 along with eight other members.
    • Data by the Lokpal office:
      • According to data provided by the Lokpal office to a parliamentary panel on the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT), since 2019-20, the anti-corruption body received 8,703 complaints
        • Out of them, 5,981 complaints were disposed of.
      • Data highlights:
        • As many as 6,775 complaints were rejected for not being in the correct format
        • The office informed that only three complaints were fully investigated, and 36 complaints were at a preliminary stage
        • In 2022-23, as many as 2,760 complaints were received, out of which only 242 were in the prescribed format.
    • Order on formatting issue:
      • Recently, the Lokpal of India issued an order that henceforth, complaints received by the office of the Lokpal of India that were not in the prescribed form would not be entertained at any level.
    • The Committee report: 
      • The Committee infers from the data provided by Lokpal that a large number of complaints are being disposed of on the ground that the complaint is not in the prescribed format. 
      • Lokpal has submitted to the Committee that it has not prosecuted even a single person accused of graft till date.
    • Committee recommendation:
      • The Committee recommends Lokpal not to reject genuine complaints merely on the technical ground that the complaint is not in the prescribed format. 

    More about Lokpal & lokayuktas

    • Meaning:
      • The word “Lokpal” is derived from the Sanskrit word “loka” meaning people and “pala” meaning protector or caretaker. Together it means “protector of people”. 
    • Historical Background:
      • The institution of ombudsman originated in Scandinavian countries. 
      • It first came into being in Sweden in 1713 when a “chancellor of justice” was appointed by the king to act as an invigilator to look into the functioning of a wartime government. 
      • The institution of the ombudsman developed and grew most significantly in the 20th century. 
      • Ombudsman institutions were on the increase especially in the period after the Second World War when almost a hundred of them were established. 
    • Lokpal and Lokayukta Act, 2013:
      • The Lokpal and Lokayukta Act, 2013 provided for the establishment of Lokpal for the Union and Lokayukta for States.
      • The Act states that not less than 50% of the members of the Lokpal should be from among persons belonging to the SCs, the STs, OBCs, minorities and women.
      • The same rules apply to members of the search committee. 
      • Salaries, allowances and service conditions of the Lokpal chairperson will be the same as those for the Chief Justice of India; those for other members will be the same as those for a judge of the Supreme Court.
      • These institutions are statutory bodies without any constitutional status. 
    • The Lokpal and Lokayuktas (Amendment) Bill, 2016:
      • The Bill amends the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013 in relation to the declaration of assets and liabilities by public servants. 
      • It requires a public servant to declare his assets and liabilities, and that of his spouse and dependent children. 
      • Such declarations must be made to the competent authority within 30 days of entering the office.

    Need for Lokpal

    • Lack of Independence: 
      • Most of our agencies like CBI, state vigilance departments, internal vigilance wings of various departments, Anti-corruption Branch of state police etc are not independent. In many cases, they have to report to the same people who are either themselves accused or are likely to be influenced by the accused.
    • Powerless: 
      • Some bodies like CVC or Lokayuktas are independent, but they do not have any powers. They have been made advisory bodies. They give two kinds of advice to the governments: to either impose departmental penalties on any officer or to prosecute him in court. Experience shows that whenever any minister or a senior officer is involved, their advice is rarely followed.
    • Lack of Transparency and internal accountability: 
      • In addition, there is the problem of internal transparency and accountability of these anti-corruption agencies. Presently, there isn’t any separate and effective mechanism to check if the staff of these anti-corruption agencies turns corrupt. That is why, despite so many agencies, corrupt people rarely go to jail. Corruption has become a high profit zero risk business. There is absolutely no deterrence against corruption.

    Challenges

    • Political Influence: 
      • The appointing committee of Lokpal consists of members from political parties that put Lokpal under political influence.
    • No criteria to decide eminent Jurist: 
      • There are no criteria to decide who is an ‘eminent jurist’ or ‘a person of integrity’ which manipulates the method of the appointment of Lokpal. 
    • No proper immunity to Whistle Blowers: 
      • The Lokpal and Lokayukta Act 2013 failed to provide any kind of concrete immunity to the whistleblowers. 
    • Judiciary excluded: 
      • One of the biggest lacunae is the exclusion of the judiciary from the ambit of the Lokpal.
    • No constitutional backing: 
      • The Lokpal does not have any constitutional backing. 
    • No provisions of appeal: 
      • There are no adequate provisions for appeal against the actions of Lokpal. 

    Way ahead

    • At this juncture when India is heading the G20 Anti Corruption Working group, Lokpal should rise to the occasion and make every effort to strengthen the anti corruption landscape in the country.

    Source:  TH