Anti-corruption ombudsman Lokpal has not prosecuted a single person accused of graft to date and its performance seems to be far from satisfactory, a Parliamentary panel has said and asked it to act as an enabler rather than an inhibitor.
In a report tabled in Parliament recently, it said several complaints are being disposed of by the Lokpal on the ground that they are not in the prescribed format and asked it not to reject genuine complaints.
The panel raised a query about the non-filling up of the post of the chairperson of Lokpal, which has been vacant since May last year, and sought the government's response on the action being taken to fill up the vacancies.
"The Committee infers from the data provided by the Lokpal that a large number of complaints are being disposed of on the ground that they are not in the prescribed format. Lokpal has submitted to the Committee that it has not prosecuted even a single person accused of graft till date," it said.
The panel said it is of the considered opinion that the Lokpal was set up to strengthen the legal and institutional mechanism to deal with corruption in public life.
"However, the performance of the Lokpal seems to be far from satisfactory," said the report of the Department-related Parliamentary Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice.
The Committee is of the view that the Lokpal was established in an effort to promote clean and responsive governance and therefore, it should act as an enabler rather than an inhibitor, it said.
The Committee recommended the Lokpal not to reject genuine complaints merely on technical grounds that a complaint was not in the prescribed format.
"At this juncture when India is heading the G20 anti-corruption working group, the Lokpal should rise to the occasion and make every effort to strengthen the anti-corruption landscape in the country," the report said.
A total of 2,518 complaints (which were not in a prescribed format) were received by the Lokpal during 2022-23.
As many as 242 complaints received during the period were in the prescribed format. Of these, 191 were disposed of.
The panel also highlighted vacancies in the Lokpal and sought details of steps taken to fill them up.
It said Section 5 of the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013 lays down that the President shall take or cause to be taken all necessary steps for the appointment of a new chairperson and members at least three months before the expiry of the term of the chairperson or member.
"The Committee notes that Justice Pinaki Chandra Ghose demitted the office of chairman of Lokpal in May 2022 on attaining the age of 70 years and since then Justice Pradip Kumar Mohanty has been acting as the chairperson of Lokpal," the report said.
The panel said vacancies of two judicial members have also not been filled up since 2020.
"The Committee desires to be apprised about the steps taken by the government to fill up vacancies of chairperson and judicial members of Lokpal. The Committee hopes that the Inquiry and Prosecution wings are constituted soon," said the report tabled in Parliament last week.
According to the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013, the Lokpal shall, by notification, constitute a prosecution wing headed by the Director of Prosecution to prosecute guilty public servants.
It shall also constitute an inquiry wing headed by the Director of Inquiry for the purpose of conducting a preliminary inquiry into any offence alleged to have been committed by a public servant punishable under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, according to the law.
The sanctioned strength of the Lokpal is 82 posts against which 32 are in position, the panel's report said.
In addition, 62 staff have been engaged on a contract/outsourcing basis.
"Lokpal submitted to the Committee that the constitution of inquiry and prosecution wings and appointment of Directors of Inquiry and Prosecution is underway," it added.
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