The nervous system of a country runs through government officers and bureaucrats. These officials and bureaucrats are assigned high power, rank, and prestige to foreguard a country’s functioning. So, it is their prime duty to deliver their duties and functions without any self-interest. How does our government keep a check on them? What is Lokpal act? Let us understand all the essential details related to it.
They are the government offices appointed to ease the functioning of government and democracy, for ex-, Tax collectors, government accountants, military personnel, etc.
What are the basic functions of a bureaucrat?
The basic function of a bureaucrat is to implement government policies. They ensure the practice of law, rules, and policies.
When an individual or an organization is given immense power to execute, there is always a chance that he or she can misuse it. There are existing cases of corruption, misuse of power, malfunctioning, or fraud on a few public administrative officers.
For example, sometimes, we hear about an IAS officer illegally verifying property matters for the sake of money. All these reasons are enough to ask the question, “why is there a need to check government officers and their functioning?”
A bill was passed in Lok Sabha, named Lokpal and Lokayukta Act, to check the power of officials and restrict them from misusing it. It was set up in 2013 at an institution in Lokpal, India.
Origin of Lokpal and Lokayukta
The success and well-functioning of democracy depend on the extent to which the citizen’s grievances are redressed. The citizen of a country defines its socio-economic development
Different institutions are created around the globe to deal with the redressal of public grievances. This institute hears public complaints about higher officials and the government system. In India, we have the system of Lokpal for this purpose. Lokpal is derived from the Swedish Constitution.
Few other examples of these institutions are:
- The Procurator System
- The Administrative Courts System
- The Ombudsman System
The Ombudsman System is the oldest system that hears public grievances against government officials. It was first established in Sweden in 1806.
An Ombudsman is an officer appointed by the legislature to handle complaints against administrative and judicial action. An ombudsman deals in the following matters:
- Administrative corruption
- Abuse of Discourtesy
- Administrative discretion
Power of Ombudsman
An Ombudsman can act either on Suo moto or based on a complaint received.
Suo moto– When the Ombudsman can proceed on his initiative.
The Ombudsman is an independent organization that has the right to report to Parliament.
After Sweden, the Ombudsman system spread to many other Scandinavian countries and commonwealth countries. For Example, Finland (1919), Norway (1962), New Zealand (1962), Denmark (1955), United Kingdom (1967).
Lokpal / Lokayukta in India
In India, an Ombudsman is called Lokpal Or Lokayukta. And at the central level, the organization is called Lokpal. At the state level, it is called Lokayukta. The main objective of this organization is to deal with public grievances against government officials.
Administrative Reforms Commission
ARC or Administrative Reforms Commission (1966-70), recommended Parliament to set up two special authorities, ‘Lokpal’ and ‘Lokayukta’. The Lokpal deals with complaints against ministers and officers at the Central and State levels and Lokayukta for other offices in every state.
The government accepted this recommendation, and ten bills were passed for this purpose in Lok Sabha. Except for the last one, all of these bills collapsed due to some reasons such as the dissolution of Lok Sabha, and withdrawal of bills, etc.
Lokpal and Lokayukta Act (2013)
In 2011, a joint drafting committee was constituted by the government. The committee includes five members, including Shri Anna Hazare. With some amendments to the draft bill, the bill was passed by both houses in 2013. It finally became an act on 1 January 2014.
Following are the features of the Lokpal Act:
- Establishment of Lokpal at central and Lokayukta at states.
- Lokpal consists of 8 members and a chairperson.
- 50% of members of Lokpal are from the judiciary.
- 50% of members of Lokpal are from a derived class.
- The selection of these members is made by the Selection Committee, which consists of the Prime minister.
- Lokpal jurisdiction is valid for all public servants.
- Lokpal can direct any investing agency, like CBT, for referred cases.
- It lays down a clear timeline.
- It can give maximum punishment of 7-10 years and a minimum of two years.
- It got its power from the Prevention of Corruption Act.
- It also protects honest public servants.
- Lokpal bill provides freedom to states to decide their mechanism of Lokayukta.
Following are the disadvantages of the Lokpal Bill:
- Absence of Suo moto like Swedish Ombudsman.
- Non-transparent procedure against the PM.
- Government-aided institutions are excluded.
- Legal assistance to the guilty office.
- Anonymous complaints are not allowed.
Even before the passing of the Lokpal and Lokayukta act in 2013, many states already had a Lokayukta. Maharashtra was the first state to have a Lokayukta in 1983. Different states have different mechanisms of the procedure.
The court of Lokpal requires changes in the following ways:
- More power should be given to Lokpal.
- They should have the power to execute Suo moto.
- States should assign fixed powers to their Lokayukta.
- Autonomous complaints should be allowed.
- A transparent process should be followed.
- By following these or more ways, the office of Lokpal can deliver the functions for which it was set.