13th February – Six years on, Lokpal is a non-starter

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.

Role of Lokpal –

  • The preambular statement of The Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013 notes that the law has been enacted to ensure prompt and fair investigation and prosecution in cases of corruption against public servants.
  • The Lokpal was envisioned to be independent. It was accorded a high stature and given extensive powers including the power to inquire, investigate and prosecute acts of corruption.

Delay in appointments –

  • For more than five years, the chairperson and members of the Lokpal were not appointed. The government claimed that since no one could be recognised 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.
  • 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.

Lokpal – A non-starter –

  • More than 10 months since the appointment of Lokpal, the evidence suggests that the Lokpal is a non-starter.
  • Till date, the government has not made rules prescribing the form for filing complaints to the Lokpal.
  • The Central government has also failed to formulate rules regarding asset disclosure by public servants.
  • The inquiry and prosecution wings of the anti-corruption ombudsman are yet to be set up.
  • The Lokpal has also not appointed the Director of Inquiry or Prosecution.
  • The 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.

Conclusion –

It took nearly half a century for the Lokpal law to be enacted from the time the need for the oversight institution was first articulated. It is anybody’s guess how much longer it will take before India has an effective, independent and empowered Lokpal.

SourceThe Hindu

QUESTIONDespite a strong social movement against graft in governance, the Lokpal remains a distant dream to cleanse the public life of government functionaries. Examine the potentials and pitfalls in the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act of 2013.

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