Q) An independent institution of Lokpal has been a landmark move in the history of Indian polity which offered a solution to the never-ending menace of corruption. Critically analyze.
Why this Question?
Important part of GS Paper-II.
Key demand of the Question
Critically analyze the efficiency and effectiveness of Lokpal in India.
Critically analyze – When asked to analyse, you have to examine methodically the structure or nature of the topic by separating it into component parts and present them as a whole in a summary. When ‘critically’ is suffixed or prefixed to a directive, one needs to look at the good and bad of the topic and give a fair judgment.
Start with a context of the question.
In the first part, discuss the significance of Lokpal in India.
In the next part, explain the challenges persistent in the system that have limited its efficiency.
Conclude with a way forward.
The Lokpal and Lokayukta Act, 2013 provided for the establishment of Lokpal for the Union and Lokayukta for States. These institutions are statutory bodies without any constitutional status. They perform the function of an "ombudsman” and inquire into allegations of corruption against certain public functionaries and for related matters.
Importance of The Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013:
- The Act consists of setting up a team called Lokpal, headed by a chairperson and consisting of eight people
- This committee will have the power to investigate people who might be acquiring money through corrupt means
- All categories of public servants will be covered under Lokpal, including the Prime Minister, while the armed forces will be exempted.
- The body will also have the power of confiscating property or assets acquired by corrupt means
- One of the main powers of the Lokpal is that they can protect all the public servants who act as whistle-blowers
- They also have a special Whistle Blowers Protection Act established for the same reason
- Lokpal will also be given the power to conduct trials in a special court if they feel that the trial is of extreme importance
- They can also fine people for false or inaccurate complaints. The fines can amount up to Rs 2 lakh
- The Act also incorporates provisions for attachment and confiscation of property acquired by corrupt means, even while the prosecution is pending.
- The institution of lokpal has tried to bring a much-needed change in the battle against corruption in the administrative structure of India but at the same time, there are loopholes and lacunae which need to be corrected.
- Five years have passed since the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act 2013 was passed by parliament, but not a single Lokpal has been appointed till date indicating the lack of political will. The Lokpal act also called upon states to appoint a Lokayukta within a year of its coming into force. But only 16 states have established the Lokayukta.
- Lokpal is not free from political influence as the appointing committee itself consists of members from political parties.
- The appointment of Lokpal can be manipulated in a way as there is no criterion to decide who is an ‘eminent jurist’ or ‘a person of integrity.’
- The 2013 act did not provide concrete immunity to the whistle blowers. The provision for initiation of inquiry against the complainant if the accused is found innocent will only discourage people from complaining.
- The biggest lacuna is the exclusion of the judiciary from the ambit of the Lokpal.
- The Lokpal is not given any constitutional backing and there is no adequate provision for appeal against the Lokpal.
- The specific details in relation to the appointment of Lokayukta have been left completely in the States.
- To some extent, the need for functional independence of the CBI has been catered to by a change brought forth in the selection process of its Director, by this Act.
- The complaint against corruption cannot be registered after a period of seven years from the date on which the offence mentioned in such a complaint is alleged to have been committed.
- In order to tackle the problem of corruption, the institution of the ombudsman should be strengthened both in terms of functional autonomy and availability of manpower.
- Greater transparency, more right to information and empowerment of citizens and citizen groups is required along with a good leadership that is willing to subject itself to public scrutiny.
- Appointment of Lokpal in itself is not enough. The government should address the issues based on which people are demanding a Lokpal. Merely adding to the strength of investigative agencies will increase the size of the government but not necessarily improve governance. The slogan adopted by the government of “less government and more governance”, should be followed in letter and spirit.
- Moreover, Lokpal and Lokayukta must be financially, administratively and legally independent of those whom they are called upon to investigate and prosecute.
- Lokpal and Lokayukta appointments must be done transparently so as to minimize the chances of the wrong sorts of people getting in.
- There is a need for a multiplicity of decentralized institutions with appropriate accountability mechanisms, to avoid the concentration of too much power, in any one institution or authority.