Powers and Functions of Lokpal and Lokayukta
The sustainability of any democracy depends on the trust between the public and the public institutions, that is why it becomes paramount to hold these public functionaries accountable. The setting up of two special institutional commands namely, ‘Lokpal‘ and ‘Lokayukta‘ for redressing citizens’ grievances against the administration was recommended by The First Administrative Reforms Commission (ARC) of India (1966-1970) on the pattern of the institution of Ombudsman (an official appointed to investigate, especially a public authority) in Scandinavian Countries (Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Norway). Dr. L.M. Singhvi in 1963 coined the terms Lokpal and Lokayukta. This body is constituted mainly to check the menace of corruption in India. It provides an effective way to counter corruption at all levels of government and brings transparency and accountability to the system. The idea of an anti-corruption authority and an ombudsman has been floating around for over five decades now. It finally got shape with the passing of the Lokpal and Lokayukta Bill, 2013, in Lok Sabha with the support of all major political parties, but only after a countrywide protest led by India Against Corruption, a civil society movement of activist Anna Hazare. The Lokpal and Lokayukta Act, 2013 aims to establish the institution of the Lokpal at the Central level and Lokayukta at the state level.
Lokpal is the legal representative of India. It is originated from the Sanskrit word “Lok” which means people and “Pala” which means protector or caretaker. Together it means “protector of people”, so basically it is a forum where the citizens can send a complaint about unfair administrative actions. The objective of passing such a law is to annihilate corruption of all forms at all levels of Indian polity.
Power of Lokpal
- Prime Minister, or a Minister in the Union government, or a Member of Parliament, or all categories of public servants as well as Group A, B, C, and D officers, come under the ambit of Lokpal’s jurisdiction.
- Lokpal has the power to seize the assets, proceeds, receipts, and benefits of any official which are acquired by corrupt means.
- Lokpal is conferred with power to recommend the transfer or suspension of civil servants connected with charges of corruption.
- Lokpal has the power to give directions to avert the destruction of records during the preliminary investigation.
- It has the powers of superintendence over, and to give direction to CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation) and it also contains several provisions which are aimed at making the CBI stronger.
- The inquiry Wing of the Lokpal has been authorized with the powers of a civil court in certain cases.
- Lokpal has the authority to grant sanction for prosecution of public servants in place of the Government or competent authority.
Functions of Lokpal
- The Lokpal keeps a watch over all public officials and can take suitable action against them if they do not function in accordance with the law.
- It can act either on the basis of any complaint made by a private person or suo moto (i.e. on his own initiative). The Lokpal can summon or question any public official if there exists a prima facie case against the person, even before an investigation agency (such as CVC i.e. Central Vigilance Commission or CBI) has begun an inquiry.
- It can also recommend his findings to be enforced into action.
- Lokpal to function as the appellate authority for appeals arising out of any other law for the time being in force.
- It has to protect any action taken in good faith by any public servant or other officials. It has to provide adequate protection to those who are being exploited for raising their voice against corruption.
Lokayukta performs similar functions at the state level. Many states had already set up the institution of Lokayuktas much before the enactment of the Lokpal and Lokayukta Act, 2013. Lokayukta was first established in Maharashtra in 1971. Until 2013, 21 states and 1 Union Territory (Delhi) have established this institution. It is to be mentioned that there is no uniformity regarding the jurisdiction of Lokayukta in all the states. Even the structure of the Lokayukta is not the same in all the states. Some states like Karnataka, Rajasthan, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh have only created the Lokayukta while states such as Uttar Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh and Bihar have also created Uplokayukta with Lokayuktas.
Power of Lokayukta
- In states like Himachal Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat the chief minister is included within the jurisdiction of Lokayukta while he is exempted from the purview of Lokayukta in the states of Orissa, Bihar, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra.
- Ministers and higher public servants are also included under the ambit of Lokayukta in almost all the states.
- It has the power to raid on the houses and offices of corrupt officials at state level.
- It can call for relevant files and documents from the state government departments.
- It also enjoys the power to inspect and visit government organisations, which are being investigated.
- Lokayukta may investigate any action taken by the public servant if it is referred by the state government.
- It has the authority to suggest punishment against the culprit to the administration, but it is up to the state to either accept the suggestions or modify them.
Functions of Lokayukta
- Lokayukta is tasked with speedy redressal of public grievances against politicians and officers in the government service.
- It investigates allegations of corruption, abuse of power, maladministration or lack of integrity against public functionaries at state level, and once proved recommends action.
- A consolidated report will be presented by the Lokayukta and Uplokayukta about their functions to the Governor of the state. Hence, they are responsible to the state legislature.
- Its another crucial function is to keep a check on the investigation of anti-corruption agencies and authorities.
- It carries out fair and impartial investigations, based on facts against the accused person by taking the assistance of a special investigating officer.
The institution of Lokpal has been a landmark move in the history of the Republic of India, but at the same time there are certain loopholes that needs to be corrected. The institution of Lokpal and Lokayukta must be strengthened in respect of functional autonomy and workforce availability to fight against the long-standing battle of corruption. There ought to be transparency in the nomination of Lokpal and Lokayukta as it will increase the possibilities of appointment of the right candidate.