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A Lokpal (Sanskrit: लोकपाल lokpāla, "caretaker of people") is an anti-corruption authority or ombudsman who represents the public interest. The concept of an ombudsman is borrowed from Sweden. The Lokpal has jurisdiction over all Members of Parliament and central government employees in cases of corruption. The Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act was passed in 2013 with amendments in parliament, following the Jan Lokpal movement led by Anna Hazare. The Lokpal is responsible for enquiring into corruption charges at the national level while the Lokayukta performs the same function at the state level.
The term "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. The first Jan Lokpal Bill was proposed by Shanti Bhushan in 1968 and passed in the 4th Lok Sabha in 1969, but did not pass through the Rajya Sabha. Subsequently, 'lokpal bills' were introduced in 1971, 1977, 1985, again by Ashoke Kumar Sen, while serving as Law Minister in the Rajiv Gandhi cabinet, and again in 1989, 1996, 1998, 2001, 2005 and in 2008, yet they were never passed. Forty five years after its first introduction, the Lokpal Bill is finally enacted in India on 18 December 2013.
The Lokpal Bill provides for the filing, with the ombudsman, of complaints of corruption against the prime minister, other ministers, and MPs. The Administrative Reforms Commission (ARC) recommended the enacting of the Office of a Lokpal, convinced that such an institution was justified, not only for removing the sense of injustice from the minds of citizens, but also to instill public confidence in the efficiency of the administrative machinery.
Following this, the Lokpal Bill was, for the first time, presented during the fourth Lok Sabha in 1968, and was passed there in 1969. However, while it was pending in the Rajya Sabha, the Lok Sabha was dissolved, and thus the bill was not passed.
The bill was revived several times in subsequent years, including in 2011. Each time, after the bill was introduced to the House, it was referred to a committee for improvements, to a joint committee of parliament, or to a departmental standing committee of the Home Ministry. Before the government could take a final stand on the issue, the house was dissolved again. Several conspicuous flaws were found in the 2008 draft of the Lokpal Bill. The basic idea of a lokpal is borrowed from the Office of the Ombudsman, which has the Administrative Reforms Committee of a lokpal at the Centre,[clarification needed] and lokayukta(s) in the states.
Anna Hazare fought to get this bill passed[where?], and it did pass on 27 December 2011, around 9:30,[when?] with some modifications. These were proposed as the Jan Lokpal Bill. However, Hazare and his team, as well as other political parties, claimed that the Lokpal Bill passed was weak, and would not serve its intended purpose. So the proposed bill by the ruling Congress Party has yet to be accepted in the Rajya Sabha. As of 29 December 2011, the bill has been deferred to the next parliamentary session, amid much controversy and disruption by the LJP, RJD and SP parties. The media at large, and the opposition parties, claimed the situation had been staged.
Jan Lokpal Bill movement
Jan Lokpal Bill (Citizen's Ombudsman Bill) is a draft anti-corruption bill drawn up by prominent civil society activists, seeking the appointment of a Jan Lokpal, an independent body that would investigate corruption cases, complete the investigation within one year and conduct trials for the case within the next year.
Drafted by Justice Santosh Hegde (a former Supreme Court Judge and former Lokayukta of Karnataka), Prashant Bhushan (a Supreme Court Lawyer) and Arvind Kejriwal (an RTI activist), the draft Bill envisaged a system in which a corrupt person found guilty would go to jail within two years of the complaint being made and his ill-gotten wealth confiscated. It also sought power for the Jan Lokpal to prosecute politicians and bureaucrats without requiring government permission.
Retired IPS officer Kiran Bedi and others, like Anna Hazare, Swami Agnivesh, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, and Mallika Sarabhai are also members of the movement, called India Against Corruption. Its website describes the movement as "an expression of collective anger of people of India against corruption." It goes on to state: "We have all come together to force/request/persuade/pressurize the Government to enact the Jan Lokpal Bill. We feel that if this Bill were enacted it would create an effective deterrence against corruption."
Anna Hazare, an anti-corruption crusader, began a fast-unto-death, demanding that this bill, drafted by Civil Society, be adopted. The website of the India Against Corruption movement calls the Lokpal Bill of the government an "eyewash", and hosts a critique of that government bill. It also lists the difference between the bills drafted by the government and civil
Features of the Jan Lokpal Bill
- An institution called Lokpal at the centre and Lokayukta in each state will be set up.
- Like the Supreme Court and Election Commission, they will be completely independent of governments. No minister or bureaucrat will be to influence their investigations.
- Cases against corrupt people will not linger on for years anymore: investigations in any case will have to be completed in one year. Trial should be completed in the next one year, so that the corrupt politician, officer or judge is sent to jail within two years.
- The loss that a corrupt person caused to the government will be recovered at the time of conviction.
- How will it help a common citizen? If the work of any citizen is not done in a prescribed time, in any government office, Lokpal will impose a financial penalty on the guilty officers, which will be given as compensation to the complainant.
- So, you could approach Lokpal if your ration card or passport or voter card had not been made, or if the police are not registering your case, or if any other work is not being done within the prescribed time. Lokpal will have to get it done in a month's time. You could also report any case of corruption to Lokpal, like rations being siphoned off, poor quality roads being constructed or panchayat funds being siphoned off.
- But won't the government appoint corrupt and weak people as Lokpal members? That won't be possible because its members will be selected by judges, citizens and constitutional authorities, not by politicians, through a completely transparent and participatory process.
- What if some officer in Lokpal becomes corrupt? The entire functioning of Lokpal/ Lokayukta will be completely transparent. Any complaint against any officer of Lokpal will be investigated and the officer dismissed within two months.
- What will happen to existing anti-corruption agencies? CVC, the departmental vigilance and anti-corruption branch of the CBI, will be merged into Lokpal. Lokpal will have complete powers and machinery to independently investigate and prosecute any officer, judge or politician.
- It will be the duty of the Lokpal to provide protection to those who are being victimized for raising their voice against corruption.
- To judge the cases and make jurisdictions against corruption cases with the Lokpal.
- To judge whether a case is genuine or whether a fake complaint has been made.
- To potentially impose fines on a fake complaint, or even a short span of jail time, if the case is not proved to be legally true.
Anna Hazare, a Gandhian rights activist, had started a fast unto death at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi demanding the passing of the bill. Hazare called off his hunger strike on 9 April 2011, bringing to an end his 98-hour protest after the government issued a gazette notification constituting a 10-member Joint Committee of government ministers and civil society activists, including him, to draft a bill for the creation of an effective Lokpal. Thousands of people from all over India, especially youth, supported Anna Hazare's cause by attending candle lit marches and conducting online campaigns through social media.
Recently yoga guru, Swami Ramdev, fasted for this cause for 9 days from 4 to 12 June 2011. He wanted the Government of India to accept various demands, which mainly included those related to the Lokpall Bill. Many claimed he had a personal interest in it.
Anna Hazare on 8 June 2011, declared that he would again fast unto death on 16 August, if the Lokpal bill were not passed by the Parliament of India by 15 August, which is the Independence Day of India.
On 16 June, Civil Society reported that only 15 points, of 71, that they recommended have been agreed to by the Joint Committee consisting of five central ministers. Following differences with the Civil Society, the team of five central ministers decided to forward two drafts of the Lokpal Bill to the Cabinet, one from each side. Anticipating some sort of police action against his fast, intended for 16 August, social activist Anna Hazare said he would ask the Supreme Court to prevent any situation similar to the police crackdown on Baba Ramdev and his supporters at Ramlila Maidan.
"The government said, ‘we will suppress the agitation of Anna Hazare as had been done in the case of Ramdev’. Is this democracy or autocracy? You cannot suppress.... That is why we will go to the Supreme Court tomorrow," Hazare told reporters, adding "the Constitution has given right to every citizen to lodge a protest. We will launch the agitation from August 16."
On 27 December 2011, the Lokpal bill was passed by the Lok Sabha after a day-long debate and amendments. The Indian Army, the Indian Air Force and the Indian Navy have been kept out of the jurisdiction of the Lokpal. The bill also keeps the CBI independent.
The Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013
The historic Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013 was passed by Indian Parliament paving the way for establishment of a Lokpal (Ombudsman) to fight corruption in public offices and ensure accountability on the part of public officials, including the Prime Minister, but with some safeguards.
Lokpal will consist of a chairperson and a maximum of eight members, of which 50% will be judicial members 50% members of Lokpal shall be from SC/ST/OBCs, minorities and women. Selection of chairperson and members of Lokpal through a selection committee consisting of PM, Speaker of Lok Sabha, leader of opposition in Lok Sabha, Chief Justice of India or a sitting Supreme Court judge nominated by CJI. Eminent jurist to be nominated by President of India on basis of recommendations of the first four members of the selection committee "through consensus". Lokpal's jurisdiction will cover all categories of public servants. All entities (NGOs) receiving donations from foreign source in the context of the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) in excess of Rs 10 lakh per year are under the jurisdiction of Lokpal. Centre will send Lokpal bill to states as a model bill. States have to set up Lokayuktas through a state law within 365 days.
- Lokpal will have power of superintendence and direction over any central investigation agency including CBI for cases referred to them by the ombudsman.
- A high-powered committee chaired by the PM will recommend selection of CBI director. The collegium will comprise PM, leader of opposition in Lok Sabha and Chief Justice of India PM has been brought under purview of the Lokpal, so also central ministers and senior officials.
- Directorate of prosecution will be under overall control of CBI director. At present, it comes under the law ministry.
- Appointment of director of prosecution to be based on recommendation of the Central Vigilance Commission.
- Director of prosecution will also have a fixed tenure of two years like CBI chief.
- Transfer of CBI officers investigating cases referred by Lokpal with the approval of watchdog.
- Bill incorporates provisions for attachment and confiscation of property acquired by corrupt means, even while prosecution is pending.
- Bill lays down clear timelines for preliminary enquiry and investigation and trial. Provides for special courts Public servants will not present their view before preliminary enquiry if the case requires 'element of surprise' like raids and searches.
- Bill grants powers to Lokpal to sanction prosecution against public servants.
- CBI may appoint a panel of advocates with approval of Lokpal, CBI will not have to depend on govt advocates.
- "Lokpal bill to cover PM". CNN-IBN. 21 November 2010.
- "Anna Hazare sets Aug 15th deadline for Lokpal Bill". The Times of India. 8 June 2011. Retrieved 2011-08-06.
- "'Govt agreed to only 15 of the 71 points of Lokpal Bill' - Rediff.com News". Rediff.com. 2011-06-16. Retrieved 2011-08-06.