On Sunday, a selection panel finalised the name of former Supreme Court judge Justice Pinaki Chandra Ghose as the first head of the Lokpal, a national anti-corruption ombudsman. This comes five years after the President had given assent to the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013. A look at how the rest of the Lokpal will be selected, and how it will function:
Who all remain to be selected in Lokpal?
Justice Ghose was selected by committee headed by the Prime Minister. The same selection committee will choose the Lokpal’s other members. Under the 2013 Act, the Lokpal should consist of a chairperson and such number of members, not exceeding eight, of whom 50% should be judicial members. The selection procedure for these posts is the same as that for the chairperson. A search committee will prepare a panel of candidates, a selection committee will recommend names from among this panel, and the President will appoint these as members.
The Act states that not less than 50% of the members of the Lokpal should be from among persons belonging to the SCs, the STs, OBCs, minorities and women. The same rules apply members of the search committee. 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.
What happens after these selections to anti-corruption ombudsman?
The Lokpal will set about creating its various wings. It will have an “Inquiry Wing, headed by the Director of Inquiry, for the purpose of conducting preliminary inquiry into any offence alleged to have been committed by a public servant punishable under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988”. It will also have a “Prosecution Wing, headed by the Director of Prosecution, for the purpose of prosecution of public servants in relation to any complaint by the Lokpal under this Act”. Once the other members of the Lokpal are appointed, the process for more appointments will start: Secretary, Director of Inquiry and Director of Prosecution and other officers and staff of the Lokpal.
What kind of public servants will come under the purview of these wings?
For a wide range of public servants — from the Prime Minister, ministers and MPs, to groups A, B, C and D employees of the central government — various rules are in place. If a complaint is filed against the Prime Minister, the Act says, “Lokpal shall inquire or cause an inquiry to be conducted into any matter involved in, or arising from, or connected with, any allegation of corruption made in a complaint”. However, certain conditions will apply.
The Act does not allow a Lokpal inquiry if the allegation against the Prime Minister relates to international relations, external and internal security, public order, atomic energy and space. Also, complaints against the Prime Minister are not to be probed unless the full Lokpal bench considers the initiation of an inquiry and at least two-thirds of the members approve it. Such an inquiry against the Prime Minister (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.
The Act also includes the Lokpal’s own members under the definition of “public servant”. “The Chairperson, Members, officers and other employees of the Lokpal shall be deemed, when acting or purporting to act in pursuance of any of the provisions of this Act,to be public servants… It shall apply to public servants in and outside India,” it states. It clarifies that “a complaint under this Act shall only relate to a period during which the public servant was holding or serving in that capacity.”
How is an inquiry to proceed?
The Lokpal may, after receiving a complaint against any public servant, order a preliminary inquiry (to be completed with in 90 days) or investigation by any agency. After receiving the report of the preliminary inquiry, the Lokpal may order an investigation by any agency or departmental proceedings or any other appropriate action against the concerned public servants by the competent authority, or it can order closure of the proceedings.
What are the Lokayuktas mentioned in the Act?
These are the state equivalents of the central Lokpal. “Every State shall establish a body to be known as the Lokayukta for the State, if not so established, constituted or appointed, by a law made by the State Legislature, to deal with complaints relating to corruption against certain public functionaries, within a period of one year from the date of commencement of this Act,” states Section 63 of the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act. This means establishment of the institution of the Lokayukta including any appointment therein falls within the domain of the states.
When are the states expected to set up their respective Lokayuktas?
In some states, Lokayuktas were already functioning when the 2013 Act was passed. Most states, however, are without a Lokayukta.
Last year, the Supreme Court observed, “It appears that… Jammu & Kashmir, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Puducherry, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Tripura, West Bengal and Arunachal Pradesh have not appointed any Lokpal, Lokayukta or Up-Lokayukta.” It asked the chief secretaries of these states “whether steps have been taken for appointment of Lokayukta/ Up-Lokayukta and if so the stage thereof… The reasons for non-appointment of Lokayukta/ Up-Lokayukta… be also laid before the court.”
The Arunachal Pradesh and Mizoram Assemblies had passed Lokayukta Bills in 2014. Following the SC order, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and Puducherry Assemblies passed their respective Bills in July last year.