Lokpal and Lokayukta refer to anti-corruption ombudsman institutions in India at the central and state levels, respectively. These institutions are established to address and investigate complaints of corruption against public officials and elected representatives. Read here to learn more.
The institution of the ombudsman originated in Scandinavian countries. The institution of the ombudsman first came into being in Sweden in 1713 when a “chancellor of justice” was appointed by the king to act as an invigilator to look into the functioning of a wartime government.
From 1713 the duty of this ombudsman was to mainly ensure the correct conduct of royal officials. The institution of the ombudsman was firmly incorporated into the Swedish constitution from 1809.
In India, the ombudsman is known as Lokpal or Lokayukata. The concept of a constitutional ombudsman was first proposed by the then-law minister Ashok Kumar Sen in parliament in the early 1960s.
Need for Lokpal and Lokayukta
The terms Lokpal and Lokayukta were coined by Dr. L.M. Singhvi as the Indian model of the ombudsman for the redressal of public grievances, it was passed in Lok Sabha.
In the year 1968, it lapsed with the dissolution of the Lok Sabha, and since then has lapsed in the Lok Sabha many times.
The establishment of Lokpal at the central level and Lokayukta at the state level in India is driven by the need to combat corruption, enhance transparency, and ensure accountability in public administration.
The creation of these anti-corruption ombudsman institutions addresses various concerns related to corruption in the country.
- Corruption Eradication: Lokpal and Lokayukta are institutions specifically designed to investigate and address allegations of corruption against public officials and elected representatives. Their primary objective is to eradicate corruption from the public administration.
- Promoting Accountability: These institutions act as independent bodies responsible for holding public officials accountable for their actions and decisions.
- Ensuring Transparency: By conducting investigations and inquiries into allegations of corruption, Lokpal and Lokayukta contribute to bringing transparency to government functioning.
- Building Trust: Establishing anti-corruption bodies demonstrates the government’s commitment to combating corruption, which, in turn, helps build public trust in the administration.
- Restoring Confidence: When citizens see that allegations of corruption are being investigated impartially, it restores confidence in the fairness of public institutions.
- Dissuading Corruption: The presence of Lokpal and Lokayukta serves as a deterrent, dissuading public officials from engaging in corrupt practices due to the fear of investigation and subsequent legal action.
- Autonomous Bodies: Lokpal and Lokayukta operate independently of the executive, ensuring that investigations into corruption allegations are not subject to interference from the government.
- Checks and Balances: The existence of independent oversight mechanisms helps maintain a system of checks and balances within the government.
- Access to Justice: Lokpal and Lokayukta provide a mechanism for citizens to seek justice when they encounter corruption or maladministration in public services.
- Empowering Whistleblowers: These institutions offer protection to whistleblowers, encouraging individuals to come forward with information about corruption without fear of reprisal.
- Expeditious Handling: The specialized focus of Lokpal and Lokayukta on corruption cases enables them to handle complaints more expeditiously than traditional legal processes.
- Fair and Impartial Inquiries: Through swift investigations, these bodies contribute to fair and impartial resolution of corruption cases.
- International Standards: Establishing anti-corruption bodies aligns with international best practices and commitments to combat corruption, contributing to the country’s global standing.
Lokpal is the apex anti-corruption ombudsman at the central level in India.
- The Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013, was enacted by the Indian Parliament to establish the Lokpal at the national level. The Act came into effect on January 16, 2014.
- Jurisdiction: Lokpal has jurisdiction over all central government employees, including the Prime Minister, Members of Parliament, and employees of government-owned corporations.
- Appointment: The Lokpal is appointed by the President of India based on the recommendation of a selection committee. The committee includes the Prime Minister, the Speaker of the Lok Sabha, the Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, the Chief Justice of India, or a sitting Supreme Court judge nominated by the Chief Justice.
- Functions: The Lokpal investigates complaints of corruption against public officials and elected representatives. It can also inquire into allegations of corruption against the Prime Minister, with certain safeguards.
Lokayukta is the anti-corruption ombudsman at the state level in India.
- The Lokayukta Act empowers state governments to establish Lokayuktas. The structure and powers may vary from state to state.
- Jurisdiction: Lokayuktas have jurisdiction over state government employees, including the Chief Minister, Ministers, Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs), and other public officials.
- Appointment: The Lokayukta is typically appointed by the Governor of the state based on the recommendation of a selection committee. The committee may include the Chief Minister, Speaker of the Legislative Assembly, Leader of the Opposition in the Legislative Assembly, a sitting High Court judge, and others.
- Functions: Similar to the Lokpal, the Lokayukta investigates allegations of corruption against public officials at the state level. It acts as an independent body to address complaints related to corruption, maladministration, and abuse of power.
Powers and Independence
- Both Lokpal and Lokayukta have the power to conduct investigations, summon witnesses, and recommend punitive action against individuals found guilty of corruption.
- To ensure independence, these bodies operate independently of the government and are granted certain powers to carry out their functions without interference.
Challenges and Criticisms of Lokpal and Lokayukta
- Despite their noble objectives, both Lokpal and Lokayukta have faced challenges related to delays in appointments, resource constraints, and the need for greater awareness among the public.
- Critics argue that their effectiveness depends on the proactive engagement of citizens, civil society, and other institutions in the fight against corruption.
- While the establishment of Lokpal and Lokayukta addresses key concerns, there is a need for sustained efforts to address challenges such as delays in appointments, resource constraints, and ensuring the effectiveness of these institutions.
- Public awareness campaigns and outreach programs can enhance the effectiveness of Lokpal and Lokayukta by encouraging citizens to report instances of corruption and maladministration.
Lokpal and Lokayukta play crucial roles in the Indian governance system to combat corruption and promote transparency and accountability. These institutions are essential for upholding ethical standards in public service and ensuring that allegations of corruption are thoroughly investigated and addressed. However, ongoing efforts are needed to strengthen their functioning and address any challenges they may face.
The continued strengthening of these institutions, coupled with broader systemic reforms, is essential for creating a more transparent, accountable, and corruption-free governance system in India.
-Article by Swathi Satish