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FULLY FUNCTIONAL LOKPAL

Why in news?

Almost a year after the Lokpal became functional, the Department of Personnel and Training has issued a notification providing the rules and prescribed format for filing complaints with the anti-corruption ombudsman. The notification, under Section 59 of the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, lays down the rules called the Lokpal (Complaint) Rules, 2020.

Justice P.C. Ghosh was appointed as the first Lokpal of India on March 19, 2019.

Lokpal (Complaint) Rules, 2020:

  • Complaint can be filed with the Lokpal against the sitting Prime Minister, Union Ministers, MPs, bureaucrats, among others.
  • A complaint filed against a sitting or former prime minister shall be decided by full bench of Lokpal comprising of its Chairman and all members in admission stage.
  • If such complaint is dismissed by the full bench, records of enquiry are not to be published.
  • A complaint against Union Minister/ MP is to be looked into by bench of not less than three members.

Rules for filing complaints:

  1. According to the rules, the complainant has to give a valid proof of identity, as specified therein.
  2. Foreign nationals can also lodge complaints and they require only a copy of their passports as proof of identity.
  1. The complaint can be filed electronically, by post or in person.
  2. In case the complaint is filed electronically, its hard copy has to be submitted to the Lokpal within 15 days.
  3. No complaints can be filed against a public servant under the Army Act, Navy Act, Air Force Act and the Coast Guard Act.
  1. A complaint may ordinarily be made in English, provided that the Lokpal may also entertain a complaint in any of the languages referred to in the Eighth Schedule to the Constitution.
  2. Apart from the details of the accused official(s), allegation and the evidence relied upon, the complainant or the authorized signatory will also have to mandatorily submit an affidavit on non-judicial stamp paper.
  3. Registration/incorporation certificate of the organisation, on whose behalf the complaint is made and copy of authorization certificate in favour of the signatory, if the complaint is on behalf of a board, body, corporation, company, limited liability partnership, authority, society, association of persons or trusts, has to be furnished.

Handling complaints:

  • The Lokpal bench will decide the complaint in the first instance at the admission stage. The Lokpal may seek other details or affidavit, if necessary.
  • The identity of the complainant or the accused official will be protected by the Lokpal till the conclusion of inquiry or investigation.
  • However, the protection will not be applicable in cases where the complainant herself reveals her identity to any other office or authority while making the complaint to Lokpal.
  • The complaints, whose contents are illegible, vague or ambiguous, contents of the complaint are trivial or frivolous; or do not contain any allegation, are not filed within the limitation period of seven years, or are pending before any other court, tribunal or authority, will have to be disposed of within 30 days.
  • Any false, frivolous complaint is punishable with imprisonment for the term upto one year and a fine upto 1 lakh rupees.

Disposition of Complaints:

  • The Lokpal can send complaint to the enquiry wing of the Lokpal which may than order a preliminary inquiry.
  • If a prime facie case is found, the Lokpal can refer the complaint for an investigation by a probe agency like CBI.
  • The investigation must be completed within 6 months and the trail must be finished within a maximum duration of 2 years.

About Lokpal

Lokpal and Lokayukta Act, 2013 establishes Lokpal for the Union and Lokayukta for States to inquire into allegations of corruption against certain public functionaries.

Composition: Lokpal will consist of a chairperson and a maximum of eight members, of which 50% shall be judicial members and 50% shall be from SC/ST/OBCs, minorities and women.

Appointment process: It is a two-stage process.

  • A search committee which recommends a panel of names to the high-power selection committee.
  • The selection committee comprises the Prime Minister, the Speaker of the Lok Sabha, the Leader of the Opposition, the Chief Justice of India (or his nominee) and an eminent jurist (nominated by President based on the recommendation of other members of the panel).

President will appoint the recommended names.

Jurisdiction: The jurisdiction of Lokpal extends to

  • Anyone who is or has been Prime Minister, or a Minister in the Union government, or a Member of Parliament, as well as officials of the Union government under Groups A, B, C and D.
  • The chairpersons, members, officers and directors of any board, corporation, society, trust or autonomous body either established by an Act of Parliament or wholly or partly funded by the Centre.
  • Any society or trust or body that receives foreign contribution above ₹10 lakh.

Exception for Prime Minister

  • It does not allow a Lokpal inquiry if the allegation against the PM relates to international relations, external and internal security, public order, atomic energy and space.
  • Complaints against the PM are not to be probed unless the full Lokpal bench considers the initiation of inquiry and at least 2/3rds of the members approve it.
  • Such an inquiry against the PM (if conducted) is to be held in camera and if the Lokpal comes to the conclusion that the complaint deserves to be dismissed, the records of the inquiry are not to be published or made available to anyone.

Salaries, allowances and service conditions of the Lokpal chairperson will be the same as those for the Chief Justice of India; those for other members will be the same as those for a judge of the Supreme Court.

Inquiry wing and prosecution wing: Inquiry Wing for conducting preliminary inquiry and Prosecution Wing for the purpose of prosecution of public servants in relation to any complaint by the Lokpal under this Act.

Power with respect to CBI: Power of superintendence and direction over any investigation agency including CBI for cases referred to them by Lokpal. Transfer of officers of CBI investigating cases referred by Lokpal would need approval of Lokpal.

Timelines for enquiry, investigation: Act specifies a time limit of 60 days for completion of inquiry and 6 months for completion of investigation by the CBI. This period of 6 months can be extended by the Lokpal on a written request from CBI.

Suspension, removal of Chairperson and member of Lokpal:

The Chairperson or any Member shall be removed from his office by order of the President on grounds of misbehaviour after the Supreme Court report. For that a petition has to be signed by at least one hundred Members of Parliament.

Special Court shall be setup to hear and decide the cases referred by the Lokpal.

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