News: Recently, in a RTI Reply, it has been revealed that the Centre is yet to appoint a director of inquiry, more than two years after the Lokpal came into being.
About the Director of Inquiry:
- As per the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013, there shall be a Director of Inquiry, not below the rank of Joint Secretary to the Central Government.
- As per the provisions contained under Section 20 (1) (b)of the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013, complaints in respect of public servants are referred by the Lokpal to the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) for a preliminary inquiry. The non-appointment of director of inquiry again reflects the lack of political will for strengthened Lokpal in India.
- A Lokpal is an anti-corruption authority or ombudsman who represents the public interest. India is a signatory to the United Nations Convention against Corruption. The concept of an ombudsman was borrowed from Sweden.
- The Lokpal, the apex body to inquire and investigate graft complaints against public functionaries, came into being with the appointment of its chairperson and members in March 2019.
- The First Administrative Reforms Commission (ARC) of India (1966– 1970)recommended the setting up of two special authorities designated as ‘Lokpal’ and ‘Lokayukta’ for the redressal of citizens’ grievances.
- The Lokpalis responsible for enquiring into corruption charges at the national level while the Lokayukta performs the same function at the state level.
- The Lokpal has jurisdiction over all Members of Parliament and central government employees in cases of corruption.
- Apart from this, Lokpal can also inquire into anti-graft complaints regarding any member of an institution which is wholly or partially financed by the central government or controlled by it.
- Presently, Justice Pinaki Chandra Ghose is the chairperson of the Lokpal.
- Lokpal is a multi-member body that consists of one chairperson and a maximum of 8 members.
Issues Regarding Lokpal:
- Lokpal is not free from political influence as the appointing committee itself consists of members from political parties. The selection committee for Lokpal is composed of the Prime Minister who is the Chairperson; Speaker of Lok Sabha, Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha, Chief Justice of India or a Judge nominated by him/her and one eminent jurist.
- 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 biggest lacunae are 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 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.
- Moreover, Lokpal and Lokayukta must be financially, administratively and legally independent of those whom they are called upon to investigate and prosecute.
- 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.
- Greater transparency, empowering Right to Information Act, strong Whistleblower protection regime are required along with a morally resound leadership that is willing to subject itself to public scrutiny.