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Lokpal And Lokayuktas Act, 2013: An Overview

ABSTRACT

Corruption can hinder development, erode public trust, and undermine democratic institutions. The Lokpal and Lokayukt Act was passed in 2013 amidst widespread public protest against growing corruption among public officials in the country. This essay presents an overview of the act and studies its importance with reference to the already existing anti-corruption framework in the Constitution. It also looks at the events that led up to the formation of the Act.


INTRODUCTION

The Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013[1] was passed by the Indian Parliament with the intention of creating an independent body to tackle corruption. The Act holds a significant place in India's fight against corruption, serving as a crucial legislative measure to promote accountability within the public administration. The act establishes a central-level anti-corruption ombudsman called the Lokpal, as well as similar bodies called Lokayuktas at the state level. These bodies are designed to receive and investigate complaints of corruption against public officials and work towards prosecuting such cases. This essay explores the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, its key provisions, and its potential impact in combating corruption across the nation.


THE ACT OF 2013

The key provisions of the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013 are as follows:

  1. Establishment of Lokpal: The act sets up the Lokpal at the central level. The Lokpal serves as an independent body at the central level, entrusted with the responsibility of investigating corruption complaints against public officials, politicians, and bureaucrats that include the Prime Minister and Cabinet Ministers as well. Under this act, the Lokpal's composition and powers are defined, comprising a chairperson and members appointed by a selection committee. Its scope extends to cases involving central government employees and entities receiving substantial funding from the central government.

  2. Lokayuktas at the State Level: In addition to the Lokpal, the act facilitates the establishment of Lokayuktas at the state level. These Lokayuktas act as anti-corruption bodies within their respective states, functioning parallel to the Lokpal at the central level. The composition and jurisdiction of Lokayuktas are determined by the state legislatures, allowing flexibility in addressing regional concerns and specific instances of corruption.

  3. Jurisdiction and Powers: The Lokpal and Lokayuktas possess broad jurisdiction over corruption cases, empowering them to receive complaints from any citizen against public servants falling within their purview. The act simplifies the complaint filing process, provides safeguards for whistleblowers, and grants extensive investigative powers to the Lokpal and Lokayuktas. These powers include summoning witnesses, conducting searches and seizures, and initiating prosecution proceedings.

  4. Transparency and Accountability: Transparency and accountability lie at the heart of the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act. The act emphasizes the need for public servants to declare their assets and liabilities, promoting transparency in their financial dealings. Moreover, the Lokpal and Lokayuktas are mandated to disclose information about their activities, such as filing annual reports, which are made accessible to the public. Such provisions enhance public trust and ensure that the anti-corruption bodies operate with transparency and integrity.

  5. Penalties and Prosecution: In the event of finding a public servant guilty of corruption, the Lokpal and Lokayuktas possess the authority to recommend penalties and initiate prosecution proceedings. The act prescribes a range of penalties, including imprisonment, fines, and the recovery of assets acquired through corrupt means. By imposing strict penalties, the act acts as a deterrent against corrupt practices.

The Act came into existence as a response to the growing demand for a strong anti-corruption mechanism in India. It was driven by several factors and events that shaped public opinion and pushed for effective measures against corruption. One of the significant drivers behind the act was the anti-corruption movement led by social activist Anna Hazare and India Against Corruption (IAC). This movement gained significant momentum in 2011 and called for the establishment of an independent ombudsman to investigate and prosecute corruption cases involving public servants. The act was also influenced by a series of high-profile corruption cases that exposed deep-rooted corruption within the Indian political and bureaucratic systems. The 2G spectrum scam and the Commonwealth Games (CWG) scandal were two significant corruption cases that shook India, leading to widespread public awareness about the extent of corruption within the country. While these scandals did not directly result in the enactment of the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, they played a crucial role in fueling public outrage and demanding stronger anti-corruption measures. Let's take a closer look at each of these scandals:

  1. 2G Spectrum Scam: The 2G spectrum scam revolved around the improper allocation of 2G telecom spectrum licenses in 2008. It was alleged that licenses were sold at undervalued prices, causing significant financial losses to the government. This scandal exposed a web of corruption involving politicians, bureaucrats, and business leaders. There were accusations of bribery and favouritism in the allocation process, which led to a public outcry against the deep-rooted corruption within the system.

  2. Commonwealth Games Scandal: The Commonwealth Games held in Delhi in 2010 were intended to showcase India's capabilities on the international stage. However, the event was mired in allegations of widespread corruption and financial irregularities. The scandal revolved around inflated costs, kickbacks, and substandard construction quality. Reports indicated that funds were misappropriated, contracts were awarded without proper scrutiny, and instances of nepotism and favouritism prevailed in the process of awarding infrastructure projects related to the Games.

Both these scandals had a significant impact on public sentiment and raised serious concerns about the pervasive corruption in India. They ignited public outrage and triggered demands for accountability and transparency in governance. The revelations from these scandals played a crucial role in shaping public discourse around anti-corruption measures and paved the way for discussions on the need for a robust anti-corruption body like the Lokpal and Lokayuktas.

Furthermore, the judiciary played a pivotal role in emphasizing the need for an independent anti-corruption body. Through various judgments, the Supreme Court of India emphasized the importance of creating an effective mechanism to combat corruption and recommended the establishment of a Lokpal. The public demand for accountability and transparency in governance was another crucial factor. People across the country expressed their dissatisfaction with prevalent corruption and voiced their desire for a robust institution that could effectively address corrupt practices and hold public officials accountable. Taking these factors into account, the government introduced the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Bill in Parliament, recognizing the need to address corruption effectively and respond to public sentiment. The bill underwent extensive debates and consultations in both the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha, with lawmakers incorporating different viewpoints and suggestions to ensure the effectiveness and constitutionality of the legislation.

In terms of the existing anti-corruption framework in India, the Prevention of Corruption Act,[2] 1988 (“PC Act”) defines and identifies corrupt practices such as bribery, criminal misconduct by public servants, and acceptance of gratification. The following agencies investigate the offenses under the PC Act upon receipt of information/complaint in respect of such offenses:

  • Central Bureau of Investigation (constituted by the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, 1946) (“CBI”);

  • Central Vigilance Commission (“CVC”)(constituted under the Central Vigilance Act, 2003 (“CVC Act”);

  • State Anti-Corruption Bureau/Branch (“ACB”) of the police department of the State.

The act also promotes international cooperation in the fight against corruption. It enables India to collaborate with other countries, exchanging information, providing mutual legal assistance, and facilitating the extradition of individuals involved in cross-border corruption cases.

The Lokpal Act was necessary even though the Prevention of Corruption Act already existed due to several reasons, firstly, while the Prevention of Corruption Act focuses on investigating and prosecuting corruption cases, the Lokpal Act goes a step further by establishing an independent body. This body is empowered to investigate corruption complaints against high-ranking public officials, including politicians and bureaucrats. By doing so, it strengthens the anti-corruption framework and ensures a more comprehensive approach to combating corruption. Secondly, the Lokpal Act specifically targets high-level corruption cases involving public servants. It grants the Lokpal the authority to inquire into allegations of corruption against influential individuals, such as the Prime Minister, Members of Parliament, Ministers, and other senior government officials. This specialized focus ensures that no one is exempt from scrutiny and reinforces the idea that even those in positions of power are accountable for their actions. Another crucial aspect of the Lokpal Act is its role in promoting public trust. Corruption erodes public confidence in the government and its institutions. By establishing the Lokpal as an independent and impartial body responsible for addressing corruption, the act helps restore trust. It creates a sense of transparency and accountability, showing the public that the government is committed to combating corruption and ensuring integrity in public administration. Lastly, the Lokpal Act complements the Prevention of Corruption Act by taking a more holistic approach to tackling corruption.


CONCLUSION

While the Prevention of Corruption Act focuses on legal provisions and procedures, the Lokpal Act establishes an institutional mechanism. It creates the Lokpal as an independent body responsible for preventing corruption, investigating complaints, and promoting accountability. Together, these acts form a comprehensive anti-corruption framework that addresses corruption at different levels and with varying degrees of severity. The Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013 marks a significant milestone in India's battle against corruption. Through the establishment of independent anti-corruption bodies at the central and state levels, the act provides a platform for citizens to voice their concerns, promotes transparency and accountability, and facilitates investigations and prosecution of corruption cases. While challenges remain, continued efforts to strengthen the implementation and address the shortcomings will be crucial to realizing the full potential of the act in creating a more transparent and corruption-free society.


REFERENCES [1] Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013. 1 Jan. 2014, www.indiacode.nic.in/handle/123456789/2122?sam_handle=123456789/1362. [2] The Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, No. 49, Acts of Parliament, dated 9th. September, 1988. India

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