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Wednesday, April 01, 2020

It’s official: Complaint against any PM will go to Lokpal full bench, no explanation if rejected

The rules also state that if such a complaint is dismissed by the full bench at the admission stage, records of the inquiry shall not be published or made available to anyone.

Written by Kaunain Sheriff M | New Delhi | Updated: March 4, 2020 11:13:54 am
On a complaint filed against a Union Minister or a Member of Parliament, the rules state that it has to be decided, at the admission stage, by a bench consisting of not less than three members of the Lokpal.

The Lokpal Rules notified almost a year after the appointment of the country’s first Lokpal, established to inquire into allegations of corruption against public functionaries, state that in case a complaint is filed against a sitting or former Prime Minister, a full bench will decide, at the admission stage, whether an inquiry should be initiated.

The rules also state that if such a complaint is dismissed by the full bench at the admission stage, records of the inquiry shall not be published or made available to anyone.

Explained: How Lokpal will form, function

The notification issued March 2 by the Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions regarding the Lokpal (Complaint) Rules, 2020 states that a complaint filed against the Prime Minister shall be decided, at the admission stage, by the full bench headed by the Chairperson, where at least two-thirds approve the inquiry.

“The complaint filed against a public servant referred to in clause (a) of sub-section (1) of section 14 of the Act, shall be decided by the full bench referred to in sub-clause (ii) of clause (a) of sub-section (1) of section 14, in the first instance, at the admission stage,” section 7 of the rules state.

Section 14 (1) (ii) also states that further inquiry shall be “in camera proceeding” and, if Lokpal comes to the conclusion that the complaint deserves to be dismissed, “records of the inquiry shall not be published or made available to anyone”.

On a complaint filed against a Union Minister or a Member of Parliament, the rules state that it has to be decided, at the admission stage, by a bench consisting of not less than three members of the Lokpal.

On July 2 last year, The Indian Express reported that the office of Lokpal is not yet fully functional because the anti-corruption ombudsman is still waiting for the Centre’s approval on notifying the “format” for receiving a complaint.

With the format notified, the Lokpal — Justice (retired) Pinaki Chandra Ghose — can send complaints to the Inquiry Wing of the Lokpal which may order a preliminary inquiry. And if there is a prima facie case, the Lokpal can refer the complaint for an investigation by a probe agency like the CBI.

According to rules notified by the government, the Lokpal, after processing the complaint, has to “protect” the identity of the complaint till the conclusion of investigation, provided the complainant himself has revealed his identity to any authority, while making the complaint to the Lokpal.

The rules also spell out the the grounds on which the Lokpal can dispose a complaint — where the contents of the complaint are “illegible”, “vague or ambiguous”, “trivial or frivolous”; where the complaint does not contain allegation against a public servant; or where the cause of the complaint is pending before any other Court or Tribunal or Authority; and, the alleged offence in respect of which complaint is being made is within the period of seven years.

According to the rules, if a complaint is filed electronically, it shall be submitted within 15 days. The rules also bar any complaint filed against a public servant under the Army Act, Navy Act, Air Force Act or the Coast Guard Act. Also, a non-citizen of India, can also file a complaint — only a copy of the passport will be accepted as proof of identity.

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