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Governance

Jurisdiction of Lokpal

  • 18 Nov 2023
  • 7 min read

For Prelims: Lokpal of India, Swadesh Darshan Scheme, Buddhist circuit, Ramayana circuit, Spiritual Circuit, Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT)

For Mains: Issues and concerns related to devolution of sufficient powers to Lokpal to make it more effective.

Source: TH

Why in News?

Recently, the Lokpal of India stated that it cannot consider a plea from the wife of a government official in Uttar Pradesh who died by suicide, citing jurisdictional limitations.

  • The official was allegedly pressured by superiors to sign completion certificates for Central government projects under the Swadesh Darshan Scheme.

What was the Stand Taken by the Lokpal Of India?

  • Jurisdictional Limitations of Lokpal in Uttar Pradesh Case:
    • The Lokpal, clarified that it lacks the authority to address a complaint against the Principal Secretary, Tourism and Culture, and Director General, Tourism, Uttar Pradesh.
    • The issue, involving alleged criminal activities, falls under the purview of criminal law and procedure, prompting the Lokpal to declare it cannot entertain the plea.
  • Forwarding the Complaint:
    • Despite its jurisdictional constraints, the Lokpal took a step forward by forwarding the complaint to the Union Tourism Secretary for further investigation.

Swadesh Darshan Scheme:

  • The Swadesh Darshan Scheme was launched by the Centre in 2014-15 for the integrated development of theme-based tourist circuits. Under the scheme, the Ministry of Tourism provides financial assistance to State governments for the development of tourism infrastructure in the country.
  • The second phase of the scheme was launched earlier in 2023. Important circuits for promoting tourism under the scheme include:

What are Lokpals?

  • About:
    • The Lokpal and Lokayukta Act, 2013 provided for the establishment of Lokpal for the Union and Lokayukta for States.
    • These institutions are statutory bodies without any constitutional status.
  • Functions:
    • They perform the function of an "ombudsman” and inquire into allegations of corruption against certain public functionaries and for related matters.

What comes under the Jurisdiction of Lokpal and its Powers?

  • Related to Prime Ministers (PMs) and Ministers:
    • Jurisdiction of Lokpal includes PMs, Ministers, Members of Parliament (MPs), Groups A, B, C and D officers and officials of Central Government.
    • Jurisdiction of the Lokpal included the Prime Minister except on allegations of corruption relating to international relations, security, public order, atomic energy and space.
      • The Lokpal does not have jurisdiction over Ministers and MPs in the matter of anything said in Parliament or a vote given there.
  • Related to Civil Servants and Bureaucrats:
    • Its jurisdiction also includes any person who is or has been in charge (director/ manager/ secretary) of anybody/ society set up by central act or any other body financed/ controlled by central government and any other person involved in act of abetting, bribe giving or bribe-taking.
    • The Lokpal Act mandates that all public officials should furnish the assets and liabilities of themselves as well as their respective dependents.
  • Related to Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI):
    • It has the powers to superintendence over, and to give direction to CBI.
      • If Lokpal has referred a case to CBI, the investigating officer in such case cannot be transferred without the approval of Lokpal.

What are the Concerns Regarding the Working of Lokpal?

  • Lack of Fulltime Chairperson: The Lokpal has not had a full-time chairperson since May 2022, raising concerns about its ability to function effectively.
  • Inaction in Dealing with Corrupt Officials: According to a parliamentary committee report tabled in Parliament in April 2023, the Lokpal "has not prosecuted even a single person accused of graft till date."
    • According to data provided by the Lokpal office to the panel on Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT), since 2019-20, the anti-corruption body received 8,703 complaints out of which 5,981 complaints were disposed of.
    • However, the fact that no one has been prosecuted for corruption despite the large number of complaints received has raised concerns about the Lokpal's ability to take action against corrupt officials.
  • Lack of Transparency:   Some experts have also criticized the Lokpal's lack of transparency and accountability, which they say undermines its credibility and effectiveness.

Way Forward

  • In order to tackle the problem of corruption, the institution of the ombudsman should be strengthened both in terms of functional autonomy and availability of manpower.
  • Greater transparency, more right to information and empowerment of citizens and citizen groups is required along with a good leadership that is willing to subject itself to public scrutiny.
  • Appointment of Lokpal in itself is not enough. Merely adding to the strength of investigative agencies will increase the size of the government but not necessarily improve governance.
    • The slogan adopted by the government of “less government and more governance”, should be followed in letter and spirit.
  • Moreover, Lokpal and Lokayukta must be financially, administratively and legally independent of those whom they are called upon to investigate and prosecute.
  • Lokpal and Lokayukta appointments must be done transparently so as to minimize the chances of the wrong sorts of people getting in.
  • There is a need for a multiplicity of decentralized institutions with appropriate accountability mechanisms, to avoid the concentration of too much power, in any one institution or authority.


UPSC Civil Services Examination Previous Year’s Question (PYQs)

Mains:

Q. ‘A national Lokpal, however strong it may be, cannot resolve the problems of immorality in public affairs.’ Discuss.(2013)

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