Lokpal (ombudsman)

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History: In brief

KILL BILL: EIGHT ATTEMPTS, NO RESULTS

The Times of India, Aug 27, 2011

In 43 years, eight Lokpal bills had earlier been introduced but there had been zero consensus. The bill introduced in Lok Sabha on Aug 4, 2011 is the ninth version before Parliament. From 1968 to 2001, the bill has come before Parliament under 7 PMs, beginning with Indira Gandhi The Lokpal Bill was first brought before the fourth Lok Sabha in 1968 and passed in 1969. However, the House was dissolved, resulting in the death of the bill. The Lokpal and Lokayukta Bill, 1968, did not have either the PM or MPs under its purview. Only V P Singh, H D Deve Gowda and Vajpayee agreed to have PMs under law purview. None of these eight bills had judiciary under its purview. Indira Gandhi introduced the bill again in 1971. The legislation was not referred to any committee and it lapsed after the fifth Lok Sabha was dissolved. The third attempt was made by the Janata Party under Morarji Desai. The bill presented to Parliament in July 1977 did not include the PM but allowed for MPs to be brought under its purview. A joint select committee considered the bill and made recommendations, but the sixth Lok Sabha was dissolved soon after. Under Rajiv Gandhi, the Lok Sabha took up the bill once again in 1985 and it was referred to a joint select committee. Later, the bill was withdrawn by the govt

The United Front government under V P Singh was the next to bring a Lokpal bill in 1989, it was sent to a parliamentary standing committee. But the bill lapsed due to dissolution of the Lok Sabha

The Third Front government under Deve Gowda introduced the bill in 1996 and the parliamentary standing committee submitted its recommendations in 1997 suggesting amendments to it. The bill again lapsed after the Lok Sabha was dissolved.

Vajpayee-led NDA govt introduced the bill twice, once during the 12th Lok Sabha and again in the 13th Lok Sabha. While the 12th Lok Sabha was dissolved before the government could take a view on the parliamentary standing committee recommendations, the 13th Lok Sabha too met the same fate before the bill could be passed

Parliamentary rules, rule 193 & 184

TIMES NEWS NETWORK

The Times of India, Aug 27, 2011

The much-awaited Lokpal debate had to be deferred amidst pandemonium. Congress was a short-duration discussion under rule 193, while BJP wants it under rule 184. What are these parliamentary rules, and what’s the difference? Broadly speaking, rule 184 allows voting while rule 193 doesn’t. Here’s more.

Chapter XV in the Lok Sabha rules of business and Chapter XIII in the Rajya Sabha rules of business focus on “short duration discussions”. Chapter XV of Lok Sabha rules comprises the four rules between 193 and 196. While Rule 193 lays down how a member will submit in writing his request for a discussion on a matter of urgent public importance, Rule 195 states very clearly that “there shall be no formal motion before the House nor voting”.

Chapter XIII of the Rajya Sabha rules almost states the same thing with a very similarly worded Rule 178 saying: “There shall be no formal motion before the Council nor voting.”Short duration discussions are, however, different from “motions” for which there are elaborate rules enshrined in Chapter XIV of the Lok Sabha rules and Chapter XII of the Rajya Sabha rules.

While Rule 184 (equivalent of Rule 167 of Rajya Sabha) of Lok Sabha makes it important that the Speaker gives her consent to the motion before the discussion on a matter of general public interest takes place, it is Rule 191 of the Lok Sabha (the same as Rule 173 of Rajya Sabha) which provides for voting.Rule 191 states: “The Speaker shall, at the appointed hour on the allotted day or the last of the allotted days, as the case may be, forthwith put every question necessary to determine the decision of the House on the original question.”

Lokpal (national ombudsman)

K. Venkataramanan, March 23, 2019: The Hindu

All you want to know about Lokpal Bill TNN | Dec 18, 2013

The Times of India


Who are the public servants covered by the Act?

The Lokpal has jurisdiction to inquire into allegations of corruption against 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. Also covered are 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. It also covers any society or trust or body that receives foreign contribution above ₹10 lakh.


What happens if a charge is made against the PM?

The Lokpal cannot inquire into any corruption charge against the Prime Minister if the allegations are related to international relations, external and internal security, public order, atomic energy and space, unless a full Bench of the Lokpal, consisting of its chair and all members, considers the initiation of a probe, and at least two-thirds of the members approve it. Such a hearing should be held in camera, and if the complaint is dismissed, the records shall not be published or made available to anyone.


How can a complaint be made and what happens next?

A complaint under the Lokpal Act should be in the prescribed form and must pertain to an offence under the Prevention of Corruption Act against a public servant. There is no restriction on who can make such a complaint. When a complaint is received, the Lokpal may order a preliminary inquiry by its Inquiry Wing, or refer it for investigation by any agency, including the CBI, if there is a prima facie case. Before the ordering of an investigation by the agency, the Lokpal shall call for an explanation from the public servant to determine whether a prima facie case exists. This provision, the Act says, will not interfere with any search and seizure that may be undertaken by the investigating agency. The Lokpal, with respect to Central government servants, may refer the complaints to the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC). The CVC will send a report to the Lokpal regarding officials falling under Groups A and B; and proceed as per the CVC Act against those in Groups C and D.


What is the procedure for preliminary inquiry?

The Inquiry Wing or any other agency will have to complete its preliminary inquiry and submit a report to the Lokpal within 60 days. It has to seek comments from both the public servant and “the competent authority,” before submitting its report. There will be a ‘competent authority’ for each category of public servant. For instance, for the Prime Minister, it is the Lok Sabha, and for other Ministers, it will be the Prime Minister. And for department officials, it will be the Minister concerned.

A Lokpal Bench consisting of no less than three members shall consider the preliminary inquiry report, and after giving an opportunity to the public servant, decide whether it should proceed with the investigation. It can order a full investigation, or initiate departmental proceedings or close the proceedings. It may also proceed against the complainant if the allegation is false. The preliminary inquiry should normally be completed within 90 days of receipt of the complaint.


What happens after the investigation?

The agency ordered to conduct the probe has to file its investigation report in the court of appropriate jurisdiction, and a copy before the Lokpal. A Bench of at least three members will consider the report and may grant sanction to the Prosecution Wing to proceed against the public servant based on the agency’s chargesheet. It may also ask the competent authority to take departmental action or direct the closure of the report. Previously, the authority vested with the power to appoint or dismiss a public servant was the one to grant sanction under Section 197 of the Code of Criminal Procedure and Section 19 of the Prevention of Corruption Act. Now this power will be exercised by the Lokpal, a judicial body. In any case, the Lokpal will have to seek the comments of the ‘competent authority’ as well as the public servant’s comments before granting such sanction.


Who are the functionaries of the Lokpal?

The Lokpal will have a Secretary, who will be appointed by the Lokpal Chairperson from a panel of names prepared by the Central government. The Secretary will be of the rank of Secretary to the Government of India. The Lokpal will have to appoint an Inquiry Wing, headed by a Director of Inquiry, and a Prosecution Wing, headed by a Director of Prosecution. Until these officers are appointed, the government will have to make available officers and staff from its Ministries and Departments to conduct preliminary inquiries and pursue prosecution. The institution will also have to appoint other officers and staff.


Is there any norm for disclosure of assets?

Yes. Public servants will have to declare their assets and liabilities in a prescribed form. If any assets found in their possession is not declared, or if misleading information about these are furnished, it may lead to an inference that assets were acquired by corrupt means. For public servants under the State governments, the States have to set up Lok Ayuktas to deal with charges against their own officials.


Following are the salient features of the amended Lokpal Bill passed in Dec 2013 by the Rajya Sabha.

Lokayuktas (state-level ombudsmen)

The new bill mandates states to set up Lokayuktas within 365 days. States have the freedom to determine the nature and type of Lokayukta.

The old bill said the law shall be applicable to states only if they give consent to its application.

The old bill gave power to the central government to appoint state Lokayuktas while the new draft gives this power to the states.

Constitution of Lokpal:

The Lokpal will consist of a chairperson and a maximum of eight members, of which fifty percent shall be judicial members. Fifty percent members of Lokpal shall be from among SC, ST, OBCs, minorities and women.

The older version said the chairperson shall be the Chief Justice of India or a present or former judge of the Supreme Court or a non-judicial member with specified qualifications (chief justice or a judge of a high court).

Selection of Lokpal:

The selection committee will have Prime Minister, Lok Sabha Speaker, leader of the opposition in Lok Sabha and the Chief Justice of India. A fifth member of the selection committee for selection of Lokpal under the category of "eminent jurist" may be nominated by the President on the basis of recommendation of the first four members of the selection committee.

In the old bill, selection of the fifth person was left entirely to the President.

Religious bodies and trust:

The new bill includes societies and trusts that collect public money, receive funding from foreign sources, and have an income level above a certain threshold, it excludes bodies creating endowments for or performing religious or charitable functions.

The old bill expanded definition of public servant by bringing societies and trusts which receive donations from the public (over a specified annual income) and, organisations which receive foreign donations (over Rs 10 lakh a year) within the purview of the Lokpal.

Prosecution:

In the new version, before taking a decision on filing a chargesheet in a case upon consideration of the investigation report, the Lokpal may authorise its own prosecution wing or the concerned investigating agency to initiate prosecution in special courts.

Under the old bill, prosecution of the case could be done only by the prosecution wing of the Lokpal.

Central Bureau of Investigation:

For independence of the CBI, in the new bill a directorate of prosecution will be formed. Appointment of the director of prosecution will be on the recommendation of the Central Vigilance Commissioner.

Transfer of officers of CBI investigating cases referred by Lokpal will be only with the approval of Lokpal who will also have superintendence over CBI in relation to Lokpal referred cases.

Hearing:

The new bill says a government servant will get a hearing before a decision is taken by the Lokpal.

Prime Minister:

The Prime Minister will be under the purview of the Lokpal with subject matter exclusions and specific process for handling complaints against the Prime Minister.

Investigation:

Inquiry has to be completed within 60 days and investigation to be completed within six months. Lokpal shall order an investigation only after hearing the public servant.

Inquiry against the prime minister has to be held in-camera and approved by two-thirds of the full bench of the Lokpal.

Penalty:

False and frivolous complaints - imprisonment up to one year and a fine of up to Rs.1 lakh. Public servants - imprisonment up to seven years. Criminal misconduct and habitually abetting corruption - jail term up to 10 years.

Lokpal's journey to transparency

1966

Morarji Desai led First Administrative Reforms Commission recommends setting up of Lokpal at Centre and Lokayukta in states to look into complaints against public functionaries, including MPs

1968-2001

Successive governments introduce Lokpal bill eight times

2002

Justice MN Venkatachaliah led Constitution Review Commission stresses the need for Lokpal and Lokayuktas

2004

UPA-I's national common minimum programme promises that Lokpal bill would be enacted

2005

Veerappa Moily led Second Administrative Reforms Commission reiterates that Lokpal be established without delay

2011

Jan: UPA-II's GoM headed by Pranab Mukherjee suggests a range of anti-corruption measures, including the Lokpal bill

Apr 5: Anna Hazare begins his first fast at Jantar Mantar demanding enactment of Jan Lokpal bill drafted by his team

Apr 9: Anna ends fast as the government forms a joint drafting committee consisting of ministers and civil society members

Jun 21: The last meeting of the drafting committee ends with the two sides coming up with separate drafts

Aug 4: Govt introduces a Lokpal bill, widely attacked as fl awed

Aug 8: Bill referred to standing committee

Aug 16: Anna launches second fast for Jan Lokpal bill

Dec 22: Govt re-introduces Lokpal and Lokayuktas bill

Dec 27: Lok Sabha passes bill

Dec 29: Introduced in Rajya Sabha

2012

Re-introduced in Rajya Sabha. Referred to select committee

2013

Dec 10: Anna Hazare begins fast in his village in Maharashtra, demanding urgent introduction of a new anti-corruption law

Dec 13: Amended bill tabled in Rajya Sabha

(With inputs from IANS)

The Lokpals: selection process

2019: selecting India’s first Lokpal

Justice PC Ghose set to be named India’s 1st Lokpal, March 18, 2019: The Times of India


Govt Learnt To Have Given Nod To Appointment

Almost 50 years after the Lok Sabha first passed a Lokpal bill and more than five years after a popular anti-corruption movement led to the passage of the legislation in its latest form, retired Supreme Court judge Justice Pinaki Chandra Ghose is set to be India’s first anti-corruption ombudsman.

The selection committee for Lokpal is understood to have cleared Justice Ghose’s name with Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge keeping away from deliberations on the ground that the provision for the leader of opposition in the Lok Sabha had not been replaced by the leader of the largest party.

The selection of Lokpal followed the insistence of the Supreme Court, which asked the government what steps had been taken to set up the mechanism expected to consider complaints of corruption in high places. The Anna Hazare-led movement had gained wide traction in 2013 in the wake of a series of scams like Commonwealth Games, 2G and Coalgate during the UPA government.


Kharge didn’t attend meets

The demand for Lokpal lost steam with subsequent efforts at mobilisation on the issue drawing a tepid response. However, the Supreme Court continued to exert pressure on the government, leading to the selection committee of PM Narendra Modi, Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan and eminent jurist Mukul Rohatgi considering candidates and agreeing on Justice PC Ghose. Kharge stayed away from the meetings. It is understood that former police officer Archana Ramasundaram has been approached for appointment as one of the non-judicial members and she has consented.

He has been a member of the National Human Rights Commission since June 29, 2017. The official announcement of his selection is expected soon as the government is likely to inform the Supreme Court as part of the hearing on the case.

The law envisages appointment of a Lokpal at the Centre and Lokayuktas in states to examine specific complaints of corruption. Many states have set up Lokayuktas and there will be an ombudsman at the central level too. The development comes a week after the Supreme Court asked attorney general K K Venugopal to inform it within 10 days when the selection committee was likely to meet.

The first judicial, non- judicial members

Lokpal finally takes shape with HC ex-CJs as judicial members, March 19, 2019: The Times of India


Archana, Jain Non-Judicial Members

The Lokpal, set to be headed by Justice Pinaki Chandra Ghose, will have two former high court chief justices — Justices Abilasha Kumari and Dilip Babasaheb Bhosale — as judicial members along with three non-judicial members.

The Lokpal selection committee comprising PM Narendra Modi, Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan, CJI’s nominee Justice S A Bobde and eminent jurist Mukul Rohatgi last week finalised the names at a meeting which Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge refused to attend as a ‘special invitee’. TOI could confirm only two of the three judicial members. Two of the three non-judicial members selected are Archana Ramasundaram and former Maharashtra chief secretary D K Jain.

Justice Abhilasha Kumari became a judge of Himachal Pradesh HC in 2005 and was transferred to Gujarat HC in 2006. She was appointed chief justice of Manipur HC in 2018 and served in the post till 14 days before her superannuation. After retirement, she was appointed chairperson of Gujarat State Human Rights Commission in May last year.

Justice Bhosale became a judge of Bombay HC in 2001 and was transferred to Karnataka HC in 2012. He was appointed chief justice of Allahabad HC in July 2016 and retired from there in October 2018. TOI had reported about Ramasundaram’s selection as one of the three non-judicial members.

Justice Pinaki Chandra Ghose (2019-...): India’s first Lokpal

Mahesh Langa, March 17, 2019: The Hindu


Justice Ghose, who retired from the Supreme Court in May 2017, is a member of the NHRC.

Former Supreme Court judge and member of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Pinaki Chandra Ghose, is likely to be India’s first anti-corruption ombudsman, or Lokpal, after his name was cleared and recommended by the high-level selection committee chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Other members of the committee are Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan and eminent jurist Mukul Rohatgi.

Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge, who is part of the committee, did not attend the meeting after he was invited as “special invitee.” Mr. Kharge had refused to attend earlier meetings too, protesting against his being invited as a “special invitee.”

The government was prompted to make the selection after the Supreme Court set the February-end deadline.

The Lokpal Act, which was passed in 2013 after a nationwide anti-corruption movement, provides for setting up of Lokpal at the centre and Lokayuktas in the States to probe corruption complaints against top functionaries and public servants, including the Prime Minister and the Chief Ministers.

Mr. Ghose was appointed as judge of the Calcutta High Court in 1997 and went on to become Chief Justice of Andhra Pradesh before his elevation to the Supreme Court in 2013.

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