UPSCPORTAL Public Administration Learning Programme 2014 - "Lokpal Bill"

UPSCPORTAL Public Administration Learning Programme 2014 - Lokpal Bill

A Lokpal is a proposed ombudsman in India. The basic idea of a lokpal is borrowed from the Office of the Ombudsman, which as per the recommendations of First Administrative Reforms Commission Lokpal at the Centre, and Lokayukta(s) in the states. The word 'lokpal' was coined 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.

Lokpal's journey to transparency

1966 -Morarji Desai led First Administrative Reforms Commission recommends setting up of Lokpal at Centre and Lokayukta in states to look into complaints against public functionaries, including MPs

1967-2001- Successive governments introduce Lokpal bill eight times

2002- Justice MN Venkatachaliah led Constitution Review Commission stresses the need for Lokpal and Lokayuktas

2004 -UPA-I's national common minimum programme promises that Lokpal bill would be enacted

2005-Veerappa Moily led Second Administrative Reforms Commission reiterates that Lokpal be established without delay

2011- UPA-II's GoM headed by Pranab Mukherjee suggests a range of anti-corruption measures, including the Lokpal bill

Anna Hazare begins his first fast at Jantar Mantar demanding enactment of Jan Lokpal bill drafted by his team

Anna ends fast as the government forms a joint drafting committee consisting of ministers and civil society members

The last meeting of the drafting committee ends with the two sides coming up with separate drafts

Government introduces a Lokpal bill, widely attacked as flawed. Bill referred to standing committee

Anna launches second fast for Jan Lokpal bill

Government re-introduces Lokpal and Lokayuktas bill. Lok Sabha passes bill. Introduced in Rajya Sabha

2012-Re-introduced in Rajya Sabha. Referred to select committee

2013-Anna Hazare begins fast in his village in Maharashtra, demanding urgent introduction of a new anti-corruption law

Amended bill tabled in Rajya Sabha. After years of fight, the Lokpal Bill is all set to become law as the Parliament has reached consensus over it, with UPA and NDA both supporting the present draft.

Union Law Minister Kapil Sibal initiated the debate on Lokpal in Rajya Sabha and it was passed in Rajya Sabha after debate in an atmosphere of rare political consensus. The bill was in pending status in Rajya Sabha since last two years after Lok Sabha passed the bill after the government faced agitation over it across India.

Parliament passed the Lokpal bill with the Lok Sabha adopting the measure as amended by the Rajya Sabha after a short discussion.

The Bill creates a new independent agency empowered to investigate charges of graft among government servants.

Here are some of the salient features between the earlier draft and the present bill

  • Every state will now have to set up Lokayuktas within 365 days from the date of the Act. Earlier draft said that it will only be applicable to states that give consent.
  • Even after the demand of making the Central Bureau of investigation an autonomous body by the civil society members, there has been no amendment on it. The apex agency will come under the purview of Lokpal body only for Lokpal referred cases. The earlier draft stated the same. The new draft states that the CBI officers won't be transferred. The Union Law Minister said that it would have affected the functioning of the CBI.

  • The original bill gave power to the Centre to appoint state Lokayuka while the new draft gives this power to the states.
  • Lokpal will now be appointed by five-member body. Earlier draft doesn't had provision on appointing Lokpal by a five-member body.
  • In the new draft, bureaucrats under investigation will have right to state their case. Earlier draft had same provision.
  • The new draft states that Lokpal will have jurisdiction over NGOs other than religious bodies while earlier didn't have provision for jurisdiction over NGOs

The salient features of the amended Lokpal Bill :

In December, 2011, the Bill was cleared by the Lok Sabha but was stalled in the Rajya Sabha. It was then sent to a parliamentary committee for review. The amended version firstly passed in the Rajya Sabha. That version then cleared by the Lok Sabha.

Lokayuktas: The new bill mandates states to set up Lokayuktas within 365 days. States have the freedom to determine the nature and type of Lokayukta.

The old bill said the law shall be applicable to states only if they give consent to its application.

The old bill gave power to the central government to appoint state Lokayuktas while the new draft gives this power to the states.

Constitution of Lokpal: The Lokpal will consist of a chairperson and a maximum of eight members, of which fifty percent shall be judicial members. Fifty percent members of Lokpal shall be from among SC, ST, OBCs, minorities and women.

The older version said the chairperson shall be the Chief Justice of India or a present or former judge of the Supreme Court or a non-judicial member with specified qualifications (chief justice or a judge of a high court).

Selection of Lokpal: The selection committee will have Prime Minister, Lok Sabha Speaker, leader of the opposition in Lok Sabha and the Chief Justice of India. A fifth member of the selection committee for selection of Lokpal under the category of "eminent jurist" may be nominated by the President on the basis of recommendation of the first four members of the selection committee.

In the old bill, selection of the fifth person was left entirely to the President.

Religious bodies and trust: The new bill includes societies and trusts that collect public money, receive funding from foreign sources, and have an income level above a certain threshold, it excludes bodies creating endowments for or performing religious or charitable functions.

The old bill expanded definition of public servant by bringing societies and trusts which receive donations from the public (over a specified annual income) and, organisations which receive foreign donations (over Rs 10 lakh a year) within the purview of the Lokpal.

Prosecution: In the new version, before taking a decision on filing a chargesheet in a case upon consideration of the investigation report, the Lokpal may authorise its own prosecution wing or the concerned investigating agency to initiate prosecution in special courts.

Under the old bill, prosecution of the case could be done only by the prosecution wing of the Lokpal.

Central Bureau of Investigation: For independence of the CBI, in the new bill a directorate of prosecution will be formed. Appointment of the director of prosecution will be on the recommendation of the Central Vigilance Commissioner.

Transfer of officers of CBI investigating cases referred by Lokpal will be only with the approval of Lokpal who will also have superintendence over CBI in relation to Lokpal referred cases.

Hearing: The new bill says a government servant will get a hearing before a decision is taken by the Lokpal.

Prime Minister: The Prime Minister will be under the purview of the Lokpal with subject matter exclusions and specific process for handling complaints against the Prime Minister.

Investigation: Inquiry has to be completed within 60 days and investigation to be completed within six months. Lokpal shall order an investigation only after hearing the public servant.

Inquiry against the prime minister has to be held in-camera and approved by two-thirds of the full bench of the Lokpal.

Penalty: False and frivolous complaints - imprisonment up to one year and a fine of up to Rs.1 lakh. Public servants - imprisonment up to seven years. Criminal misconduct and habitually abetting corruption - jail term up to 10 years.
(Sources:- IANS, The Times of India and IBNLive)

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