Six years on, Lokpal is a non-starter-THE HINDU -12-02-2020
Six years on, Lokpal is a non-starter.
A nationwide public campaign in 2011 demanding an independent anti-corruption ombudsman resulted in the passage of the Lokpal law in India.
The Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013 had been enacted to ensure a prompt and fair investigation and prosecution, in cases of corruption against public servants.
The Lokpal had been envisioned to be independent and was accorded a high stature and given extensive powers including the power to inquire, investigate and prosecute acts of corruption.
More than six years after the Lokpal law received the President’s assent, the institution of the Lokpal is yet to play any significant role in tackling corruption in the country.
Delay in appointments:
There had been a long delay in the appointment process of the chairperson and members of the Lokpal. The chairperson and members of the Lokpal were appointed only in March 2019 after a contempt petition was filed in the Supreme Court following the failure of the government to comply with the 2017 ruling of the court to initiate the process of making appointments.
Government’s lack of intent:
The government’s argument for not appointing the chairperson and the members was that since no one could be recognized as the Leader of the Opposition (LoP) after the 2014 general election, the committee responsible for selecting members of the Lokpal could not be constituted.
This despite the fact that the situation could have been easily remedied by either recognizing the leader of the single largest party in Opposition in the Lok Sabha as the LoP or by amending the Lokpal law to allow the leader of the largest opposition party to be a member of the committee in the absence of a recognized LoP. Such a course of action was adopted previously also in the case of the selection committee of the CBI Director.
Independence of the Lokpal:
A truncated selection committee, without the LoP, was set up. The eminent jurist considered for the selection committee was the previous Attorney General of India.
The four-member selection committee, having a preponderance of representatives of the ruling party with an inherent bias towards recommending candidates favoured by the government, selected the Chair and members of the Lokpal.
This has cast serious doubts about the independence of the Lokpal even before it has become operational.
Key provisions still not in place:
Almost six years after the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013 was signed into law, several key provisions needed for the anti-corruption ombudsman to function have still not been operationalized.
The Lokpal has not yet notified a format for filing complaints. The lack of this may lead to many complaints filed being dismissed.
The Central government has also failed to formulate rules regarding asset disclosure by public servants.
Despite the important enabling provision of setting up of the Lokpal’s own inquiry wing headed by a Director of Inquiry and its own prosecution wing headed by a Director of Prosecution, the process of constituting the Lokpal’s inquiry and prosecution wings has not yet begun.
Further, regulations which the Lokpal was obligated to make under the law are yet to be made, including those specifying the manner and procedure of conducting preliminary inquiry and investigation.
Failure to meet expectations:
Without the requisite rules, regulations, and machinery in place, it is not surprising that the Lokpal has failed to meet expectations.
The website of the Lokpal states that it has scrutinized 1,065 complaints received till September 2019, and disposed of 1,000 of them. Since necessary procedures to operationalize the law are yet to be put in place, the legal veracity of the decisions of the Lokpal are questionable and could potentially be challenged in a court of law.
Q. Consider the following statements with respect to Privilege Motion:
1. Privilege Motions are handled in a joint sitting with the Speaker presiding the sitting and deciding the matter.
2. Privilege Motion can be passed by any parliamentary an against anyone accused of breaching
3. Privilege Motion does not involve arrests of the guilty but just the suspension or fining.
Which of the given statement/s is/are incorrect?
a. 1 only
b. 1 and 2 only
c. 1 and 3 only
d. 1, 2 and 3
Answer:A (1 only)
Mains: Despite a nationwide public campaign in 2011 and the subsequent passage of The Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act of 2013, the institution of the Lokpal is yet to play any significant role in tackling corruption in the country. Comment. (10 marks, 150 words)