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What is Jan Lokpal Bill?

  • Also referred to as the Citizen’s Ombudsman Bill, it is an anti-corruption bill prepared and contrived by civil society activists in India looking for the establishment of an independent body known as Jan Lokpal with the main task as to examine and scrutinize corruption cases.
  • The bill besides giving its key features also has the provisions to improvise the Lokpal and Lokayukta Bill 2011, which was to be passed by Lok Sabha in December 2011.

What is Jan Lokpal?

  • The word “Lokpal” was first coined in 1963 by late Mr. L.M. Singhvi, a member of parliament during a debate.
  • The Jan Lokpal is an independent body with an objective to effectively mitigate and prevent corruption simultaneously safeguarding the whistle-blowers and looking and compensating citizen grievances.
  • The prefix Jan which means citizens, proclaims that ordinary citizens will provide inputs through non-governmental procedures to reach at the improvements declared in the manifesto of the bill.

Inspiration and Inception

  • The Lokpal Bill was first introduced by Adv. Shanti Bhushan in 1968 and passed by the 4th Lok Sabha in 1969.
  • But before it could be passed by Rajya Sabha, the Lok Sabha was dissolved and the bill lapsed. Subsequent versions were re-introduced in 1971, 1977, 1985, 1989, 1996, 1998, 2001, 2005 and in 2008, but none of them were passed.
  • According to a report released by Washington-based Global Financial Integrity, India lost an astonishing $462 billion in corruption and financial losses. While we have numerous laws with a target to eradicate corruption they are still inadequate.
  • The bill was inspired by the Hong Kong Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC). The government of Hong Kong established this commission as an independent body after the level of corruption reached very high in the year 1970.
  • After being dismissed for 10 times in parliament, a campaign “India Against Corruption” was launched by the civil society activists to draw the attention of the government towards the bill.
  • During the Parliament’s Winter Session in 2012 the Lok Sabha passed a controversial version of the bill which was not passed in Rajya Sabha due to shortage of time. The bill was finally passed by the Rajya Sabha on 17 December, 2013 and thereafter in Lok Sabha on 18 December, 2013.

Key features 

  • Establishment of independent anti-corruption body Lokpal at the centre and Lokayukta at the state level.
  • Both of these bodies will be independent just like the Supreme Court of India and Election Commission i.e. the investigations of these institutions will not be influenced by the government in any form.
  • Losses occurred to the government by the guilty corrupt individual to be recovered right at the time of his conviction.
  • Those appointed for the Lokpal will be shortlisted by the judges, citizens and constitutional authorities and the videos of the interviews will be made public thereafter.
  • If the work meant to be done by government office towards a citizen is not done within a prescribed duration then the Lokpal will impose financial penalties on the office responsible as a recompense to the complainant.
  • Lokpal shall order an investigation only after hearing to the plea of the public servant. Cases of corruption now will be completed in a maximum time of one year and the trial should be completed in next one year maximum.
  • It is the duty of Lokayukta to update its website with its full-fledged working that includes the cases it dealt with, number of pending cases, outcome of the completed ones and etc.
  • If any complaint comes up against any officer of Lokpal then there will be complete pellucidity in its functioning. The case will be investigated within a month and if found guilty shall be dismissed within two months.
  • The current anti-corruption institutions: CVC, Departmental Vigilance and the anti-corruption branch of CBI will all be merged into Lokpal and they as an independent body will have the full control and power to investigate and litigate any officer, politician or judge.
  • It is the chore of Lokpal to provide full security to the whistle-blowers.

Merits

  • The prime advantage of the bill lies in its legislation procedure that will be proved as a milestone for exterminating the corruption.
  • Officers of Lokpal will not be politicians and bureaucrats but the ones appointed by the judges and citizens and are highly qualified.
  • The time period to reach the final outcome of any case will be faster than the current procedures.
  • Enough of door to door knock for common citizens. Now they can directly go to a single institution for all their grievances.
  • The bill is proposed a total of 11 times in 50 years that signifies that we people believe in its effectiveness to impede the corruption.

Demerits

  • Whatever be the procedure of appointing these officers there are still chances that they become corrupt just like the government officials.
  • Although faster than the current procedures it’s still too lame to reach final outcome as it takes 2 years for what can be done in maximum 9-10 months.
  • And if there is no assurances of these officers being corrupt how can there be any assurance that there will be no influence in any manner what so ever of the government officials, politicians etc.
  • To bring this bill in action and set up all the establishments it needs a huge amount of money and no wonder there will be a parallel government simultaneously beleaguering the government in a monetary burden.
  • Also as it is an independent body with almost equal powers of our PM at some point the value of your vote becomes zero.

Delhi Jan Lokpal Bill, 2015

  • A committee comprising of 4 members; CM of Delhi + Leader of Opposition in Assembly + Speaker of the Legislative Assembly + Chief Justice of Delhi High Court.
  • The investigation done by the Lokpal will have to be carried out with the officers, machinery and resources provided by the government as there is no specific mention of the resources to Lokpal. This means that the investigation will be under government influence indirectly.
  • Jurisdiction of Jan Lokpal include the area of National Capital of Delhi. This means they can proceed to investigate any corruption cases in the capital but as some agencies and bodies work under central government they can investigate the cases leading to central government as well.
  • Chairperson and members of Jan Lokpal can be dismissed by the Lieutenant Governor only after a motion is passed by the majority of total membership and two-third of the members in assembly present and voting.

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