The word “Lokpal” is derived from the Sanskrit word “Loka” meaning people and “pala” meaning protector or caretaker. Together it means “protector of people”. The aim of passing such a law is it to eradicate corruption at all levels of the Indian polity.
The institution of ombudsman originated in Scandinavian (referred to Denmark, Norway, and Sweden) countries. The institution of ombudsman 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.
In India, the ombudsman is known as Lokpal or Lokayukta. The concept of constitutional ombudsman was first proposed by the then law minister Ashok Kumar Sen in parliament in the early 1960s. The term Lokpal and Lokayukta were coined by Dr. L.M. Singhvi as the Indian model of ombudsman for the redressal of public grievances, it was passed in Lok Sabha in the year 1968 but it lapsed with the dissolution of Lok Sabha and since then has lapsed in the Lok Sabha many times.
Need For Lokpal
There are several deficiencies in our anti-corruption systems because of which despite overwhelming evidence against the corrupt, no honest investigation and prosecution take place and the corrupt are hardly punished. The whole anti-corruption set up ends up protecting the corrupt.
1. 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.
2. 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.
3. 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.
Lokpal and Lokayukta Act, 2013
The Lokpal and Lokayukta Act, 2013 seeks to provide for the establishment of Lokpal for the Union and Lokayukta for States to inquire into allegations of corruption against certain public functionaries and for related matters. The act extends to the whole of India, including Jammu & Kashmir and is applicable to “public servants” within and outside India. The act mandates for the creation of Lokpal for Union and Lokayukta for states.
The Bill was tabled in the Lok Sabha on 22 December 2011 and was passed by the House on 27 December as The Lokpal and Lokayuktas Bill, 2011. It was subsequently tabled in the Rajya Sabha on 29 December. After a marathon debate, the vote failed to take place for lack of time. On 21 May 2012, it was referred to a Select Committee of the Rajya Sabha for consideration. It was passed in the Rajya Sabha on 17 December 2013 after making certain amendments to the earlier Bill and in the Lok Sabha the next day. It received assent from President Pranab Mukherjee on 1 January 2014 and came into force from 16 January.
Structure of Lokpal
The institution of Lokpal is a statutory body without any constitutional backing. Lokpal is a multimember body, made up of one chairperson and a maximum of 8 members. The person who is to be appointed as the chairperson of the Lokpal should be 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.
Out of the maximum eight members, half will be judicial members. Minimum 50% 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.
Justice P.C. Ghose Appointed 1st Lokpal
Former Supreme Court judge Pinaki Chandra Ghose became the first Lokpal of the country with his appointment along with other eight members on March 19, 2019.
Besides Justice (retd.) Ghose, other judicial members are Justice (retd.) Dilip B. Bhosale, Justice (retd.) P.K. Mohanty, Justice (retd.) Abhilasha Kumari and Justice (retd.) A.K. Tripathi. The non-judicial members include former Sashastra Seema Bal chief Archana Ramasundaram, ex-Maharashtra Chief Secretary Dinesh Kumar Jain, Mahender Singh, and I.P. Gautam.
Jurisdiction of Lokpal
The jurisdiction of the Lokpal will include the Prime Minister except on allegations of corruption relating to international relations, security, the public order, atomic energy and space and unless a Full Bench of the Lokpal and at least two-thirds of members approve an inquiry. It will be held in-camera and if the Lokpal so desires, the records of the inquiry will not be published or made available to anyone. The Lokpal will also have jurisdiction over Ministers and MPs but not in the matter of anything said in Parliament or a vote given there. Lokpal’s jurisdiction will cover all categories of public servants.
Group A, B, C or D officers defined as such under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 will be covered under the Lokpal but any corruption complaint against Group A and B officers, after inquiry, will come to the Lokpal. However, in the case of Group C and D officers, the Chief Vigilance Commissioner will investigate and report to the Lokpal. However, it provides adequate protection for honest and upright Public Servants.
Powers of Lokpal
1. It has powers to superintendence over, and to give direction to CBI.
2. If it has referred a case to CBI, the investigating officer in such case cannot be transferred without the approval of Lokpal.
3. Powers to authorize CBI for search and seizure operations connected to such case.
4. The Inquiry Wing of the Lokpal has been vested with the powers of a civil court.
5. Lokpal has powers of confiscation of assets, proceeds, receipts and benefits arisen or procured by means of corruption in special circumstances
6. Lokpal has the power to recommend transfer or suspension of public servant connected with allegation of corruption.
7. Lokpal has power to give directions to prevent destruction of records during preliminary inquiry.
The institution of Lokpal has been a landmark move in the history of Indian polity, The Lokpal and Lokayukta act 2013 has offered a productive solution to combat the never-ending menace of corruption.