What kind of complaints should the Lok Pal entertain?
The whole country is now abuzz with the recent events that unfolded after Anna Hazare’s fast. Many have come to see the Lok Pal as a panacea to fight this cancerous malady of corruption. Though the recent events helped mobilize the citizenry to fight this scourge, one must be both reasonable and rational about the extent to which the Lok Pal act can help in fighting corruption. Much depends on the powers, the jurisdiction and the nature of complaints that the Act will permit the Lok Pal to entertain.
The Government’s version of the Lok Pal bill restricts it to inquire into corruption based on a memorandum of complaints against public functionaries (MPs and Union ministers) following the recommendations/ reference of the Speaker of the Lok Sabha or the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha. This virtually means that the Speaker (who is basically a politician, though considered independent) has the final say in deciding to accept or reject a complaint and forward the same to the Lok Pal for further inquiry. The Act also permits the Lok Pal to inquire into allegations of corruption against any other person working in the Central Government but the memorandum of complaints cannot be made by a public servant (either the State or the Central Govt Employees).
The Jan Lok Pal bill expectedly is more inclusive and broad-based regarding the complaints that it can receive. The Lok Pal as per the civil society version shall be responsible for receiving complaints:
- where there are allegations of acts of omission or commission punishable under the Prevention of Corruption Act
- where there are allegations of misconduct by a Government servant
- from whistle-blowers
- against the staff of Lok Pal
One needs to keep in mind the recent news reports of allegations of corruption made against some staff of the Karnataka Lok Ayukta and the need to ensure that Caesar’s wife is above suspicion.
The Karnataka Lok Ayukta Act permits him to investigate any action taken by or with the approval of the Chief Minister, Ministers, MLAs, Chairmen & Vice Chairmen of Boards and Corporations, Authorities, Committees, Statutory or non-statutory bodies established by or under a law of the Legislature, societies or co-operative societies nominated by the State Government and Government companies. Complaints against any public servant with a monthly remuneration of more than Rs.20,000 will be received by the Lok Ayukta and less than that by the Upa Lok Ayukta.
What many don’t know is that the Lok Ayukta of Karnataka is not merely mandated to look into allegations of corruption alone. He can also entertain complaints on grievances, administrative actions, improper exercise of discretion, mal-administration etc. Citizens need to file complaints to him whenever they see such grievances to ensure governance and service delivery in the Government is fair and transparent and meets the originally intended objectives.
The 2nd Administrative Reforms Commission recommends the establishment of the Lok Pal/ Rashtriya Lok Ayukta to deal with ‘political corruption’ – complaints against MPs and Union Ministers. This also includes all cases of corruption involving MPs and Ministers having element of collusion/connivance by officials. This envisages that complaints against officials will continue to be dealt with departmentally and by the CVC and CBI.
(to be continued…)