Critically analyse the role of Lokpal in bringing about transformational change in anti-corruption architecture in Indian polity.
Corruption is the biggest impediment in the progress of our country,India is ranked 78 out of 175 countries, according to the 2018 Transparency International. Lokpal act can help curbing ever -increasing corruption and take governance to a better level. From 1963, India has been nurturing the ambition to appoint a Lokpal, a phrase coined by L.M. Singhvi. A selection panel finalised the name of former Supreme Court judge Justice Pinaki Chandra Ghose as the first head of the Lokpal, and it comes five years after the President had given assent to the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013.
THE LOKPAL ACT IN BRINGING TRANSFORMATIONAL CHANGE:
- Lokpal’s ambit: It has a wide scope of jurisdiction including Prime Minister of the country.
- Provision for filing complaint: It empowers citizens to complain to the Lokpal against corruption by public officials.
- Extraterritorial Jurisdiction: It is applicable to public servants in and outside India. This indicates that Act has extraterritorial operation.
- Setting up of special courts: Special courts and clear timelines at each stage can ensure that investigation is completed in a time bound manner. Provisions for prosecution and punishment for filing false and frivolous or vexatious complaint will ensure that Lokpal is not misused for political gains or to settle other scores.
- Superintendence over other agencies: Lokpal can issue directions to agencies in India like CBI, CVC while investigating, and prosecuting cases under the direction of Lokpal. This ensures independent functioning free from government interference.
LACUNAE IN THE ACT
- Prior sanction: The Act does not vest power of prior sanction with Lokpal for enquiry and investigation of government officials.
- Time bar: The Act envisages that the Lokpal shall not inquire into any complaint, made after seven years from the date on which the offence has been committed. This restricts the scope, especially in relation to some of the large and complex scams that are exposed from time to time.
- No power to take cognizance: The Lokpal has been deprived of the authority of taking suo moto cognizance of the cases of corruption and maladministration.
- No Uniformity: The Act mandates establishment of the Lokayukta in every state within a period of one year from the date of commencement of this Act. However, there are many states who have not taken action in this regard. State legislatures are free to determine the powers and jurisdiction of the Lokayukta which may establish weak Lokayuktas
Lokpal should be given more autonomy and independence by providing constitutional status. Further, Strict guidelines and norms need to be setup to ensure that the institution of Lokpal does not get buried into day to day complaints regarding administrative inefficiency, corruption etc.