BJP leader Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay has filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in the Supreme Court seeking to establish special anti-corruption courts in every district within one year, to decide cases related to various economic offences. In this context, let us look at an important mechanism against corruption – the Lokpal.
What is the purpose of the Lokpal and Lokayuktas?
The Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act was enacted in 2013 to ensure prompt and fair investigation and prosecution in cases of corruption. The Act establishes effective bodies like the Lokpal (Central level), and Lokayuktas (State level), to contain and punish acts of corruption. The Lokpal and Lokayuktas make inquiries in cases where public officials (Prime Minister, Union Ministers, Members of Parliament, public servants etc.) are accused of corruption.
Members of the Lokpal
The Lokpal consists of a Chairperson and a maximum of eight other members, and half of these other members are judicial members. A judicial member is a person who is/was a Judge of the Supreme Court, or a Chief Justice of a High Court.
At least half of the Lokpal members are people belonging to Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, Other Backward Classes, Minorities and Women.
The Chairperson of the Lokpal is:
- a) someone who is/was a Chief Justice of India; or
- b) someone who is/was a Judge of the Supreme Court; or
- c) a renowned person of integrity and ability, having expertise of at least twenty-five years in matters relating to anti-corruption policy, public administration, vigilance, finance, law etc.
Term of office for Lokpal Members
The Chairperson and Members of the Lokpal are appointed by the President based on the recommendations of a Selection Committee. They hold office as Lokpal members for a period of five years, or until they reach the age of seventy years (whichever is earlier).
The President can order the Chairperson or any Member to be removed from the Lokpal on grounds of misbehaviour. The President can do this after the Supreme Court holds an inquiry and reports that the Chairperson/Member should be removed.
Inquiry by the Lokpal
After receiving a complaint, the Lokpal can order an initial inquiry against any public servant to decide whether to proceed in the matter. The Lokpal sets up an Inquiry Wing which conducts an initial inquiry regarding charges of corruption against a public servant. Such an inquiry is normally completed within ninety days of receiving the complaint. However, the Lokpal can extend the inquiry period by an additional period of ninety days, after giving written reasons for the extension.
In case the Lokpal decides to proceed with the matter, it can order an investigation by any agency (including the Delhi Special Police Establishment). The Lokpal will normally direct a speedy investigation to be completed within six months. However, the Lokpal can extend the investigation period by six more months, after giving written reasons for the extension.
Prosecution by the Lokpal
The Lokpal can initiate legal proceedings against a public servant in relation to any complaint. After investigation, if the Lokpal finds that an offence of corruption has been committed by the public servant, it can file a case before the Special Court and submit its findings. The Lokpal’s report will be considered just like a report of a police officer filed after complete investigation.