Jan Lokpal Bill – What is Janlokpal, citizens ombudsman bill
August 22, 2011Rose
Jan Lokpal Bill (Hindi: जन लोकपाल विधेयक), also referred to as the citizens’ ombudsman bill, is a proposed anti-corruption law in India. It was proposed by anti-corruption social activists as a more effective improvement to the original Lokpal bill, which is currently being proposed by the the Government of India. The prefix Jan (translation: citizens) was added to signify the fact that these improvements include input provided by “ordinary citizens” through an activist-driven, non-governmental public consultation.
The Jan Lokpal Bill aims to effectively deter corruption, redress grievances of citizens, and protect whistle-blowers. If made into into law, the bill would create an independent ombudsman body similar to the Election Commission of India called the Lokpal (Sanskrit: protector of the people). It would be empowered to register and investigate complaints of corruption against politicians and bureaucrats without prior government approval. First introduced in 1968, the bill has failed to become law for over four decades.
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, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh stated that the bill would be re-introduced in the 2011 monsoon session of the Parliament.
Accordingly, a committee of five Cabinet Ministers and five social activists attempted to draft a compromise bill merging the two versions but failed. The Indian government went on to propose its own version in the parliament, which the activists reject on the grounds of not being sufficiently effective
Key features of proposed bill
Some important features of the proposed bill are:
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.
Difference between Government and activist drafts
Difference between Draft Lokpal Bill 2010 and Jan Lokpal Bill
Draft Lokpal Bill (2010)
Jan Lokpal Bill (Citizen’s Ombudsman Bill)
Lokpal will have no power to initiate suo motu action or receive complaints of corruption from the general public. It can only probe complaints forwarded by the Speaker of the Lok Sabha or the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha.
Lokpal will have powers to initiate suo moto action or receive complaints of corruption from the general public.
Lokpal will only be an Advisory Body with a role limited to forwarding reports to a “Competent Authority”.
Lokpal will have the power to initiate prosecution of anyone found guilty.
Lokpal will have no police powers and no ability to register an FIR or proceed with criminal investigations.
Lokpal will have police powers as well as the ability to register FIRs.
The CBI and Lokpal will be unconnected.
Lokpal and the anti corruption wing of the CBI will be one independent body.
Punishment for corruption will be a minimum of 6 months and a maximum of up to 7 years.
Punishments will be a minimum of 10 years and a maximum of up to life imprisonment.
The following table details differences between the Government and activist backed versions.
Lokpal can either directly impose penalties, or refer the matter to the courts. Penalties can include removal from office, imprisonment, and recovery of assets from those who benefited from the corruption.
Lokpal can only refer matters to the courts, not take any direct punitive actions. Penalties remain equivalent to those in current law.
Lokpal can obtain wiretaps, issue rogatory letters, and recruit investigating officers. Cannot issue contempt orders.
Lokpal can issue contempt orders, and has the ability to punish those in contempt. No authority to obtain wiretaps, issue rogatory letters, or recruit investigating officers.
False, frivolous and vexatious complaints
Lokpal can issue fines for frivolous complaints (including frivolous complaints against Lokpal itself), with a maximum penalty of 1 lakh..
Court system will handle matters of frivolous complaints. Courts can issue fines of Rs25,000 to 2 lakh.