The Lokpal Bill has finally been passed in both Houses of Parliament. The much awaited and much debated anti-corruption law was mooted 47 years ago in 1966 by a Commission led by Morarji Desai to deal with corruption complaints against MPs and bureaucrats.
Also known as Lokpal and Lokayukta Bill 2011, passed on Tuesday, the bill went through nine draft meetings before taking its final shape. There was relentless campaign by Civil Society Group India Against Corruption and its leader Anna Hazare and pressure from the public.
What is the bill all about?
The bill seeks to establish Lokpal in Centre and Lokayukta in States. The States will have to set up Lokayuktas within a year from the date of the Act. The bill allows any citizen to make his/her complaints of corruption directly to the Lokpal or Lokayukta (an anti-corruption authority) against any government official or elected representative. The term of the Lokpal will be five years or till he or she is 70 years.
Inquiry and prosecution
If the Lokpal decides to proceed on any complaint, it can order a preliminary inquiry against any public servant by its Inquiry Wing or any agency, including the CBI, to ascertain if there is a prima facie case (complaint with sufficient evidence). The public servant will be given an opportunity of being heard.
Inquiry will have to be completed within 60 days and investigation to be completed within six months. Before taking a decision on filing a chargesheet, the Lokpal may authorise its own prosecution wing or the concerned investigating agency to initiate prosecution in special courts. And the trial will have to be completed within two years.
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 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.
Prime Minister, in or out?
There was a debate about handling complaints against the office of Prime Minister. The bill does bring the PM under its ambit, except in cases that involve international relations, security, the public order, atomic energy and space.
Others brought under its jurisdiction are ministers, current and former legislators, govt employees, employees of firms funded or controlled by Centre.
What about the CBI?
Lokpal will have power of superintendence and direction over any investigation agency including CBI for cases referred to them by Lokpal. Transfer of CBI officers investigating cases referred by Lokpal will be done with the approval of Lokpal.
There is also a check on the complaints filed. Person giving false and frivolous complaints will be penalised.