Lokpal and Lokayukta are statutory bodies set up under the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act of 2013 to inquire into the corruption charges against certain public servants. Lokpal has jurisdiction over the central government employees as well as all members of Parliament. While Lokayukta is a similar institution to the Lokpal, but it functions on a state level. The scope of Lokpal is based on a national level basis, whereas that of Lokayukta is on the state level.
In March 2019, Pinaki Chandra Ghose (retired judge of Supreme Court) was appointed as the first Lokpal of India.
The socio-economic development of modern democratic states resulted in the expansion of bureaucracy and administrative process, which increased the administrative power enjoyed by public servants at different levels of the government. The abuse of this power by the public servants opens up the scope for corruption, maladministration, malpractices, and harassment. Such type of a situation may give rise to citizen’s grievances against the administration.
The realization of the socio-economic development of the democratic states depends upon the extent to which the citizen’s grievances are redressed. To deal with the redressal of these grievances, institutional devices like the Ombudsman have been created. The Scandinavian institution of Ombudsman was the earliest democratic institution established for the redressal of citizen’s grievances.
In 1809, the institution of Ombudsman, for the first time created in Sweden. Ombudsman is a Swedish term that refers to an officer appointed to handle complaints against administrative and judicial actions. It deals with citizen’s grievances in case of misuse of administrative powers, corruption, maladministration, and discourtesy.
After Sweden, other Scandinavian Countries- Finland, Denmark, and Norway adopted the institution of Ombudsman in the years 1919, 1955, and 1962, respectively.
In 1962, New Zealand became the first Commonwealth country to adopt the concept of Ombudsman. In 1966, Guyana became the first developing nation to adopt the Ombudsman system. In 1967, the United Kingdom adopted the institution of Ombudsman.
In India, in the early 1960s, the concept of constitutional Ombudsman for the first time was proposed by Ashok Kumar Sen, the then law minister in the Parliament.
In 1966, The First Administrative Reforms Commission (ARC), headed by Morarji Desai, recommended setting up two special authorities for redressal of citizen’s grievances at the central and state level. These institutions designated as Lokpal and Lokayukta set up on the pattern of Ombudsman institution in Scandinavian countries to look into complaints against the public servants, including the members of Parliament. It was Dr. L. M. Singhvi who coined the term Lokpal and Lokayukta.
Till 2011, the Government of India made efforts to enact legislation of creating the institution of Lokpal in the years 1968, 1971, 1977, 1985, 1989, 1996, 1998, and 2001. But all these efforts remain unsuccessful.
In 2002, M. N. Venkatachailah Commission set up to review the working of the Constitution also recommended the appointment of Lokpal and Lokayukta.
In 2005, the Second Administrative Reform Commission (ARC), under the chairmanship of Verrappa Moily, recommended establishing the office of Lokpal without delay.
India Against Corruption movement, led by Anna Hazare in 2011, put pressure on the government to establish the institution of the Lokpal.
Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013
To meet the long-standing demand of establishing a mechanism for dealing with complaints against corruption, the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act of 2013 was passed by both houses of the parliament, which receive President assent on 1 January 2014. The Act came into force with effect on 16 January 2014.
Salient Features of the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act of 2013
- The Act seeks to establish the institution of Lokpal at the Central level and Lokayukta at the State level. It seeks these institutions to provide a uniform vigilance and anti-corruption road map for the country.
- The jurisdiction of Lokpal covers the Prime Minister, Ministers, all Members of the Parliament, and all civil servants and officials of the government.
- The Lokpal consists of a Chairperson with up to 8 members, half of whom be judicial. 50% of the members shall be from amongst the SCs, STs, OBCs, minorities, and women.
- Chairperson and members of Lokpal shall be selected through the Selection Committee. The Selection Committee consists of:
- Prime Minister.
- Speaker of Lok Sabha.
- Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha.
- Chief Justice of India or a sitting Judge of Supreme Court nominated by the Cheif Justice of India.
- An eminent jurist to be nominated by the President of India based on the recommendation of the first four members of the Selection Committee.
- A Search Committee is to be appointed to assist the Selection Committee in the selection process.
- The Lokpal will have the power of superintendence over any investigating agency, including the CBI.
- Those institutions which partly or fully financed by the government comes under the jurisdiction of Lokpal. However, institutions aided by the government are excluded.
- All the entities which receive donations from foreign sources under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) above ten lakh per year are brought under Lokpal’s Jurisdiction.
- The Act lays down clear timelines, the three months extendable by three months for preliminary inquiry, six months extendable by a further sixth month at a time for investigation, and one year extendable by one year for trial. The special courts are to be set up to achieve this.
Lokpal and Lokayuktas (Amendment) Bill, 2016
Parliament passed the Lokpal and Lokayukta (Amendment) Bill 2016 in July 2016, which seeks to amend the Lokpal and Lokayukta Act of 2013. The key provisions are as follow:
- It laid down that in the absence of a recognized Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha, the leader of the single largest opposition party in the Lok Sabha to be a member of the Selection Committee.
- It amends section 44 of the Lokpal and Lokayukta Act 2013. Section 44 of the 2013 Act laid down the provision of furnishing the details of liabilities and assets of the public servants within 30 days of joining the government service. The amendment removed this period of 30 days, and the public servants will now make the declaration of their assets and liabilities in the form and manner prescribed by the government.
- It also gives an extension of the time to the trustees and board members of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) to declare their assets and those of their spouses in case they are receiving government funds of more than one crore rupees or foreign funds of more than ten lakh rupees.
Structure of Lokpal
Lokpal is a multi-member body comprising of one Chairperson with a maximum of 8 members. It is a statutory body without any constitutional backing.
The Chairperson should be either former Chief justice of India or retired judge of the Supreme Court of India or an eminent person with impeccable integrity and outstanding ability, having special knowledge & expertise of a minimum of 25 years in the matter relating to public administration, anti-corruption policy, finance including banking and insurance, law and management.
Out of the maximum 8 members of the Lokpal, 50% of them should be judicial members. 50% of the members be from SCs, STs, OBCs, minorities, and women. The non-judicial member of the Lokpal should be an eminent person with impeccable integrity and outstanding ability, having knowledge and experience of a minimum of 25 years in the field of public administration, anti-corruption policy, finance, law, and management.
President of India appoints the members of the Lokpal on the recommendation of a Selection Committee. The tenure of office of the Lokpal Chairperson and members is 5 years or 70 years of age, whichever is earlier.
The salary, allowance, and other service conditions of the Chairperson are equivalent to the Cheif Justice of India, and that of members is equivalent to the judges of the Supreme Court. If a person is already getting the pension for being a former judge, the equivalent amount will deduct from the salary.
If the Chairperson has resigned from the post or in case of his death, the President can authorize the senior-most member of the Lokpal to act as a chairperson until a new chairperson is appointed.
Lokpal Search Committee
The Selection Committee constitutes a Search Committee of at least 8 persons for selecting the chairperson and members of the Lokpal.
Under the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act of 2013, the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) is supposed to prepare a list of candidates interested to become the Chairperson or members of the Lokpal. The list then goes to the eight-member search committee, which shortlists the candidate’s names and places them before the Selection Committee.
The Selection Committee headed by the Prime Minister may or may not pick the names proposed by the Search Committee.
In September 2018, a Seach committee headed by the former judge of Supreme Court Justice Ranjana Prakash Desai was constituted by the government.