LOKPAL Act,Performance of Agriculture Schemes in last 3 years, Daily Current Affairs 24th April, 2017DEVENDRA VISHWAKARMA
Governance in a country of size and diversities like India is a huge challenge. Anti corruption legislations have been promised by parties by implemented weakly or have been scuttled. There is a need to reinforce focus on Lokpal and other anti corruption legislations for clean governance.
The Lokpal and Lokayukta Act, 2013 seeks to provide for the establishment of Lokpal for the Union and Lokayukta for States to inquire into allegations of corruption against certain public functionaries and for related matters. The act extends to whole of India, including Jammu & Kashmir and is applicable to “public servants” within and outside India. The act mandates for creation of Lokpal for Union and Lokayukta for states.
Failure to implement the Lokpal law by the government is an indication of how the parties do renege with impunity on their poll promise of a corruption-free India.
A lack of will on the part of the government to implement the anti-corruption law can be inferred from its various actions and inactions in the last three years.
- With the government’s refusal to recognise anyone as the Leader of the Opposition (LoP) after the general election in 2014, the appointment of the Lokpal became an immediate casualty as the selection committee of the Lokpal includes the recognised LoP.
- In order to implement the law, the government has to— introduce a Lokpal amendment Bill in Parliament substituting the recognised LoP in the selection committee with the leader of the single largest Opposition party in the Lok Sabha.
- In fact, a similar amendment was required in the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act for the appointment of the CBI Director; it was introduced by the government and passed expeditiously.
- However, for the Lokpal law, instead of bringing in a single amendment to alter the composition of the selection committee, the government introduced a 10-page Bill which proposed to fundamentally dilute the original law.
- Given the controversial nature of amendments, it was referred to a parliamentary standing committee. The Bill continues to languish in Parliament.
Diluting asset disclosure
The Lokpal Act stipulated that by July 31, 2016, Section 44 related to disclosure of assets of public servants was to be operationalised irrespective of appointment of the Lokpal.
- To prevent the asset disclosure provision from taking effect, the government introduced another amendment Bill.
- This Bill, which completely whittled down the asset disclosure requirement, was resolutely pushed through by the government in Parliament and passed within 48 hours of its introduction.
- It is significant that the Bill, pushed through in unprecedented haste, did not modify the composition of the selection committee which was needed to appoint the Lokpal.
- The law was thus diluted even before it could be operationalised.
- The Lokpal Amendment Act, 2016, did away with the statutory requirement of public servants to disclose the assets of their spouses and dependent children provided for under the original law.
- It also dispensed with the need for public disclosure of these statements and empowered the Central government to prescribe the form and manner of asset disclosure.
- This was a critical blow as the Lokpal was established to act on complaints under the Prevention of Corruption Act (PCA); one of the grounds of criminal misconduct under the PCA relates to a public servant or any person on his/her behalf being in possession of pecuniary resources or property disproportionate to known sources of income.
- Since illegally amassed assets are often handed over to family members, public declaration of assets of the spouse and dependent children of the public servants was necessary to enable people to make informed complaints to the Lokpal.
- Further, the response to a query under the RTI Act revealed that the Minister had misled Parliament.
- Despite the Minister’s assurances on the floor of the House, the Lokpal Amendment Act, 2016, passed by Parliament was never referred to any parliamentary standing committee for deliberation.
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