What is Lokpal Bill and what does Jan Lokpal Bill mean?
New Delhi: The word Lokpal, means an ombudsman, has been derived from the Sweden, drawn up ostensibly to root out corruption at high places the prevailing in Indian politics.
The first Lokpal Bill was passed in the 4th Lok Sabha in 1969 but could not get through in Rajya Sabha, subsequently, Lokpal bills were introduced in 1971, 1977, 1985, 1989, 1996, 1998, 2001, 2005 and in 2008, yet they were never passed and it's still pending.
The Lokpal Bill provides for filing complaints of corruption against the prime minister, other ministers, and MPs with the ombudsman. The Administrative Reforms Commission (ARC) while recommending the constitution of Lokpal was convinced that such an institution was justified not only for removing the sense of injustice from the minds of adversely affected citizens but also necessary to instill public confidence in the efficiency of 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, resulting the first death of the bill.
The bill was revived in 1971, 1977, 1985, 1989, 1996, 1998, 2001, 2005 and most recently in 2008. Each time, after the bill was introduced to the house, it was referred to some committee for improvements - a joint committee of parliament, or a departmental standing committee of the Home Ministry - and before the government could take a final stand on the issue the house was dissolved.
Meanwhile the activists of India Against Corruption (IAC) have prepared a draft for the bill called Jan Lokpal Bill.
The basic idea of the Lok Pal is borrowed from the office of ombudsman, which has played an effective role in checking corruption and wrong-doing in Scandinavian and other nations.In early 1960s, mounting corruption in public administration set the winds blowing in favour of an Ombudsman in India too.
The Administrative Reforms Commission (ARC) set up in 1966 recommended the constitution of a two-tier machinery - of a Lokpal at the Centre, and Lokayukts in the states.
Prime Minister or a House of Parliament — to whom a Lokpal sends its report holds that the allegations of corruption made in a complaint against the Prime Minister, or a Minister or MP (present or past) have not been proved, "notwithstanding anything contained in any other law", "no prosecution shall lie on any complaint, report, information or otherwise and no court shall take cognisance of any offence on the basis of the same or substantially the same allegations."
Further it says that once a complaint is made to the Lokpal nobody can take up the same complaint or any thing close to it in any court of law through a Public Interest Litigation or otherwise. In such a case there is also a ban on referring it for inquiry under the Commissions of Inquiry Act 1952. To think of it, imagine a situation once the Bill comes into effect, when someone (could well be the accused’s 'paid complainant’) approaches the Lokpal with a case, then this could bring to a halt all pending investigations against the accused, a former or present Prime Minister, minister or MP. It could well be the case that the charge of a crime might absolve the criminal of all investigations into his crimes!
The Lokpal is empowered to give directions for deferring or suspending any ongoing police investigations in matters covered by the complaints made to it.
There are many more gems of justice that deserve attention. Contradictory to the government’s claim that the Lokpal would provide the common man with exemplary powers to censure his/her elected representative, every complainant, the government’s ‘common man’, has to pay a fees and take full responsibility for leveling charges and in case the complaint is found to be baseless, to discourage the same ‘common man’, serious punitive action extending to two years in jail and Rs.50,000 in fine will be imposed on the complainant.
Charges of corruption in the Indian legal system are not necessarily covered only under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 but also under many other Acts, but the Lokpal restricts its ambit to the cases under this Act.
Regarding the constitution of the Lokpal, the Chairman of the Lokpal shall be from among past or present chief justices of Supreme Court. But the other two members of the Lokpal may also be from those qualified to be judges of the Supreme Court. The loose end left here makes countless many from India’s entire judiciary eligible for the post including those who are also senior party politicians with legal background.
Another notable point is that the Lokpal has no powers to punish the ‘guilty’. After finding someone guilty Lokpal can only report its findings to the Prime Minister or a House of Parliament and
Lokpal is highest institution in India to investigate corruption at higher places in Government. Creation of Lokpal institution is under process. Many previous attempt were unsuccessful due to lack of political support.
This institution will cover all government ministers, officers at centre including Prime Minister (Under Debate).
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said in September 2004 that the Congress-led UPA government would lose no time in enacting the bill. But a small clique in the UPA and a strong lobby in the opposition, which has always felt that transparency isn’t conducive to a multi-party government, blocked it.
The Lokpal Bill, 2010, which awaits a select committee’s nod, provides for filing complaints of corruption against the prime minister, other ministers, and MPs with the ombudsman.
Salient features of Jan Lokpal Bill
1. An institution called LOKPAL at the centre and LOKAYUKTA in each state will be set up
2. Like Supreme Court and Election Commission, they will be completely independent of the governments. No minister or bureaucrat will be able to influence their investigations.
3. 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 next one year so that the corrupt politician, officer or judge is sent to jail within two years.
4. The loss that a corrupt person caused to the government will be recovered at the time of conviction.
5. How will it help a common citizen: If any work of any citizen is not done in prescribed time in any government office, Lokpal will impose financial penalty on guilty officers, which will be given as compensation to the complainant.
6. So, you could approach Lokpal if your ration card or passport or voter card is not being made or if police is not registering your case or any other work is not being done in 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 ration being siphoned off, poor quality roads been constructed or panchayat funds being siphoned off. Lokpal will have to complete its investigations in a year, trial will be over in next one year and the guilty will go to jail within two years.
7. 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 and not by politicians, through a completely transparent and participatory process.
8. 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 shall be investigated and the officer dismissed within two months.
9. What will happen to existing anti-corruption agencies? CVC, departmental vigilance and anti-corruption branch of CBI will be merged into Lokpal. Lokpal will have complete powers and machinery to independently investigate and prosecute any officer, judge or politician.
10. It will be the duty of the Lokpal to provide protection to those who are being victimized for raising their voice against corruption.
(With inputs from Wikipedia, India Against Corruption)