Lokpal Bill

The Jan Lokpal Bill is a proposed anti-corruption law in India. It is designed to effectively deter corruption, redress grievances and protect whistle-blowers. If passed and made into law, the bill seeks to create an ombudsman called the Lokpal (translation: protector of the people) - an independent body similar to the Election Commission of India with the power to investigate politicians and bureaucrats without prior government permission. First introduced in 1969, the bill has failed to become law for nearly over four decades.

Drafted by Justice Santosh Hegde (former Supreme Court Judge and former Lokayukta of Karnataka), Prashant Bhushan (Supreme Court Lawyer) and Arvind Kejriwal (RTI activist), the draft Bill envisages a system where a corrupt person found guilty would go to jail within two years of the complaint being made and his ill-gotten wealth being confiscated. It also seeks power to the Jan Lokpal to prosecute politicians and bureaucrats without government permission.

Retired IPS officer Kiran Bedi and other known people like Swami Agnivesh, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Anna Hazare and Mallika Sarabhai are also part of the movement, called India Against Corruption.

In 2011, Gandhian rights activist Anna Hazare started a Satyagraha movement by commencing a fast unto death in New Delhi to demand the passing of the bill. The movement attracted attention in the media, and thousands of supporters. Following Hazare's four day hunger strike, the Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh stated that the bill would be re-introduced in the 2011 monsoon session of the Parliament.

Attempts to draft a compromise bill, merging the Government's version and that of the civil group's version (Jan Lokpal), by a committee of five Cabinet Ministers and five social activists failed. The Indian government introduced its own version of the bill in the parliament, which the activists consider to be too weak.

The bill was first introduced by Shanti Bhushan in 1968 and passed in the 4th Lok Sabha in 1969. However, it did not get through in the Rajya Sabha, the upper house of the Parliament of India. Subsequent versions were re-introduced in 1971, 1977, 1985, 1989, 1996, 1998, 2001, 2005 and in 2008. But these never passed.

Renewed calls for the bill arose over resentment of the major differences between the draft 2010 Lokpal Bill prepared by the government and that prepared by the members of the associated activists movement - mainly comprising of N. Santosh Hegde a former justice of the Supreme Court of India and Lokayukta of Karnataka, Shanti Bhushan, Arvind Kejriwal and Prashant Bhushan a senior lawyer in the Supreme Court along with the members of the India Against Corruption movement.

The bill's supporters consider existing laws too weak and insufficiently enforced to stop corruption.

KEY FEATURES OF PROPOSED BILL

  1. To establish a central government anti-corruption institution called Lokpal, supported by Lokayukta at the state level.
  2. As in the case of the Supreme Court and Cabinet Secretariat, the Lokpal will be supervised by the Cabinet Secretary and the Election Commission. As a result, it will be completely independent of the government and free from ministerial influence in its investigations.
  3. Members will be appointed by judges, Indian Administrative Service officers with a clean record, private citizens and constitutional authorities through a transparent and participatory process.
  4. A selection committee will invite shortlisted candidates for interviews, videorecordings of which will thereafter be made public.
  5. Every month on its website, the Lokayukta will publish a list of cases dealt with, brief details of each, their outcome and any action taken or proposed. It will also publish lists of all cases received by the Lokayukta during the previous month, cases dealt with and those which are pending.
  6. Investigations of each case must be completed in one year. Any resulting trials should be concluded in the following year, giving a total maximum process time of two years.
  7. Losses caused to the government by a corrupt individual will be recovered at the time of conviction.
  8. Government officework required by a citizen that is not completed within a prescribed time period will result in Lokpal imposing financial penalties on those responsible, which will then be given as compensation to the complainant.
  9. Complaints against any officer of Lokpal will be investigated and completed within a month and, if found to be substantive, will result in the officer being dismissed within two months.
  10. The existing anti-corruption agencies (CVC, departmental vigilance and the anti-corruption branch of the CBI) will be merged into Lokpal which will have complete power and authority to independently investigate and prosecute any officer, judge or politician.
  11. Whistleblowers who alert the agency to potential corruption cases will also be provided with protection by it.