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[RSTV The Big Picture] Lokpal (Complaint) Rules, 2020

The Lokpal started functioning in March 2019 after the appointment of its Chairman and Members. It has so far received over 1,100 complaints, most of which have been disposed of without initiation of any inquiry.
By IT's Video Summary Team
March 17, 2020

Contents

  • Introduction
  • Lokpal
  • Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013
  • Jurisdiction of Lokpal
  • Powers and Functions
  • Lokpal (Complaint) Rules, 2020
  • Rules for filing complaints
  • Handling complaints
  • Disposition of Complaints
  • Conclusion

Lokpal (Complaint) Rules, 2020

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Introduction:

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.

Lokpal:

  • Lokpal is an anti-corruption authority who represents a public interest in India.
  • He has the jurisdiction over the central government to inquire into the allegations of corruption against his public functionaries and for matters connected to corruption.  
  • Justice P.C. Ghosh was appointed as the first Lokpal of India on March 19, 2019.

Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013:

  • The Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013, commonly known as The Lokpal Act, is an anti-corruption Act of Indian Parliament in India.
  • It constitutes Lokpal at the Centre and Lokayukta at the level of the states.
  • Members: A full bench of Lokpal consists of a Chairman and not more than eight members to be selected by the committee headed by the Prime Minister. The 50% should be the judicial members and the remaining 50% members comprising SC/ST/OBCs, minorities and women.
  • The selection of chairperson and members of Lokpal are done through a selection committee consisting of Prime Minister, Speaker of Lok Sabha, Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha, Chief Justice of India or a sitting Supreme Court judge nominated by CJI, eminent jurist to be nominated by the President of India.
  • Eligibility: The person to be appointed as the chairperson should be: Either the former Chief Justice of India or the former Judge of Supreme Court or an eminent person with impeccable integrity and outstanding ability, having special knowledge and expertise of minimum 25 years in the matters relating to anti-corruption policy, public administration, vigilance, finance including insurance and banking, law and management.
  • Tenure: The term of office for Lokpal chairman, members is 5 years or till attaining the age of 70 years.

Jurisdiction of Lokpal:

  • The Act sets up the institution of Lokpal to inquire into allegations of corruption against certain important public functionaries.
  • They would include the Prime Minister, cabinet ministers, members of parliament, Group A officials of the Central Government.
  • All entities receiving donations from foreign source in the context of the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) in excess of Rs 10 lakh per year are brought under the jurisdiction of Lokpal.
  • 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.
  • The Lokpal cannot probe corruption charge against PM on certain allegations related to International Relations, external and internal security, public order, atomic energy and space.
  • Lokpal has no jurisdiction over MPs, Ministers in parliamentary matters.

Powers and Functions:

  • It incorporates provisions for attachment and confiscation of property acquired by corrupt means, even while prosecution is pending.
  • It has the power to recommend transfer or suspension of public servant connected with corruption.
  • It lays down clear time lines for preliminary enquiry and investigation and trial and towards this end, the act provides for setting up of special courts.
  • A mandate for setting up of the institution of Lokayukta through enactment of a law by the State Legislature within a period of 365 days from the date of commencement of the Act.
  • The inquiry wing of the Lokpal has been vested the powers of a Civil Court.
  • Lokpal has power of superintendence and direction over any investigation agency including CBI for cases referred to them by the ombudsman.
  • Lokpal can transfer CBI officers investigating cases referred by ombudsman.

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.
  3. The complaint can be filed electronically, by post or in person.
  4. In case the complaint is filed electronically, its hard copy has to be submitted to the Lokpal within 15 days.
  5. No complaints can be filed against a public servant under the Army Act, Navy Act, Air Force Act and the Coast Guard Act.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.

Conclusion:

The institution of Lokpal has tried to bring the much needed change in the battle against corruption in the administrative structure of India. However, with the changing needs of the time the Act must be revised time and again to remove the lacunas and loopholes.

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