Rajya Sabha TV: The Big Picture – Lokpal & Lokayukts
PRELIMS: CURRENT EVENTS OF NATIONAL IMPORTANCE, INDIAN POLITY AND GOVERNANCE
MAINS: GENERAL STUDIES II)
The Supreme Court on 17 January 2019 fixed a February-end deadline for the search committee on Lokpal to recommend a panel of names for appointment of the country’s first anti-graft ombudsman. It also directed the Centre to provide the search committee requisite infrastructure and manpower to enable it to complete its work. Attorney General K.K.Venugopal told the bench that the search committee was facing problems like lack of infrastructure and power.
LOKPAL AND LOKAYUKTA:
- A Lokpal is an anti-corruption authority or ombudsman who represents the public interest. This concept is borrowed from Sweden.
- An ombudsman is an official who is charged with representing the interests of public by investigating and addressing complaints of maladministration or violation of rights. He is usually appointed by the government or by parliament but, with a certain degree of independence.
- The Lokpal has jurisdiction over all Members of Parliament and central government employees in cases of corruption.
- The concept of a constitutional amendment in India has been proposed many times starting in the early 1960s. But the bills were never passed till many years.
- The Lokpal bill was finally enacted in India on 18 December 2013 as “The Lokpal and Lokayukts Act, 2013”. It seeks to provide for the establishment of the institution of ‘Lokpal’ for the Union and ‘Lokayukta’ for states to inquire into allegations of corruption against certain public functionaries (including Prime Minister, ministers, MPs, Group A, B, C, D officials of the Central Government) and for matters connecting them.
- The Lokayukts are similar to the Lokpal, but function on a state level. States like Maharashtra, Odisha, Rajasthan, etc have introduced the institution of Lokayukta. But there are no Lokayuktas in Jammu & Kashmir, Manipur, Meghalaya, etc.
- The noble idea of Lokpal and Lokayukta has become a political issue that is one of the reasons it has been hanging since such a long time. The term “Lokpal” was coined by Dr. L.M.Singhvi in 1963.
- Despite the Act being passed in 2013, and intervention of Supreme Court as well, a Lokpal has not been established till date. It was passed in 2013 after civil society agitations.
- There have been many technical problems in the formation of committee for Lokpal like absence of a Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha.
- Institutions and agencies like Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG), Central Vigilance Commission (CVC), Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), Enforcement Directorate are already present in India to check corruption and related issues in Government offices.
- The recent incidences in CBI have again raised eyebrows if the Lokpal will be effective in a democracy like India.
- India has a score of 40 and ranks 79 (in year 2016) in the Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI). This shows that there is a need to check corruption in the nation strongly.
- The jurisdiction powers of Lokpal are very wide. It is a body of 9 persons consisting of chairperson, judicial members and other persons. There removal will not be easy like the judges of Supreme Court of India.
- Lokpal has powers to give directions to all the agencies in India like CBI, CVC, etc. They will work as an investigating agency, a prosecuting agency and shall have special courts.
- Lokayukts are present in many states while many of the states still do not have the Lokayukts. The powers given to them relating to corruption, etc have not been up to the mark.
- Putting up of a deadline by the Supreme Court for creation of Lokpal is a positive step otherwise the hurdles may keep delaying its formation in future as well.
Looking at the low ranking of India in Corruption on global level, there is a need to check the corruption by strong institutions. Creation of the institution of Lokpal and Lokayukts till a given deadline has come up as a welcome step. But it shall function independent from any political influence so that a proper system of checks-and -balance is maintained in the federal and democratic system of India.