Context: Justice Dilip B. Bhosale, who was one of the four judicial members of Lokpal, has recently resigned from his post.
Lokpal and its selection: Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013, was enacted to ensure that investigation and prosecution of corruption charges against public servants remain quick and fair. It provided for the establishment of the institution of Lokpal. The act also contained provisions to ensure the independence of Lokpal. It gave Lokpal power to inquire, investigate, and prosecute acts of corruption. The act provided for the selection of chairperson and members of Lokpal through a selection committee. As per the provision of the act, the selection committee was required to have five members. They were Prime Minister, Speaker of the Lok Sabha, Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, Chief Justice of India and an eminent jurist.
Delay in appointment: Government did not appoint the chairperson and members of Lokpal as Selection Committee could not be formed due to lack of Leader of the Opposition. There was indeed no Leader of the Opposition in Lok Sabha after the 2014 general election. Government could have appointed Lokpal by making the leader of the single largest opposition party a part of the selection committee. An amendment to the act could have made this possible. Government had taken this step in case of a selection committee of CBI Director. After Supreme Court ruled that the appointment of Lokpal should not be delayed due to the absence of Leader of Opposition or till the amendment in the Lokpal Act, the government finally appointed Lokpal in March 2019.
Doubts over independence of Lokpal: As per the provision of the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013, President of India was to nominate an eminent jurist on the basis of recommendation of Prime Minister, Speaker of the Lok Sabha, Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha and Chief Justice of India. The selection committee for appointment of first Lokpal included Mukul Rohatgi as an eminent jurist. Mukul Rohatgi was the Attorney General of India when the ruling party was in power. Leader of the largest party in opposition declined an invitation to attend the meeting of the selection committee as a special invitee. Finally, there were only four members in the selection committee, which selected Lokpal in March 2019. It did not include anyone in place of the leader of opposition. This raised doubts over the independence of newly appointed Lokpal.
Doubts over functioning of Lokpal: Government appointed Lokpal after a delay of nearly five years. The government has not made and notified rules regarding format of form to file a complaint with Lokpal. Government has not set up an inquiry and prosecution wing of Lokpal till now. Under the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013, Lokpal was required to make regulations for carrying out the preliminary inquiry. The official website of Lokpal shows that it has resolved 1000 complaints out of total 1,065 complaints received till September 30, 2019. As necessary, regulations have not been made till now, and there are doubts over the functioning of Lokpal and claims made on its website.
Though the government appointed Lokpal after a delay of nearly 6 years, many provisions of Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013, are not still in force. So, Lokpal has not become fully operational until now. This indicates towards lack of political commitment on the part of the government to ensure that Lokpal remains an effective, independent and empowered institution against the prevalence of corruption in India.
Discuss the functioning and independence of Lokpal, whose appointment got delayed for nearly six years since the enactment of the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act in 2013. (200 words)
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