Millennium Post

Caretaker gets its teeth

Caretaker   gets its teeth

The authority of the Lokpal has walked a long distance since the anti-corruption movement in India back in 2011-12. While the Act came out in 2013, the country's first ombudsman — Pinaki Chandra Ghose — was appointed on March 23, 2019. Finally, the Lokpal has got the teeth to chew. After 11 months of its formation, the government has laid out rules for the Lokpal machinery to function. The Lokayukta Act 2013 empowers a person to file complaints against a serving Prime Minister, former Prime Ministers, serving and former Union Ministers and Members of Parliament and bureaucrats among others. Most notably amongst the provisions is the deterrence from making false accusations that shall see vested misuse of the office of Lokpal. It states that "making any false and frivolous or vexatious complaint is punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year and with fine which may extend to one lakh rupees". The rules also allow for protection o the complainant or the public servant who is accused of corruption until the conclusion of the inquiry. The office of the ombudsman shall hereafter be equipped to entertain any pleas that shall fall under its jurisdiction. Complaints against sitting or former prime ministers would see consideration by the full bench of Lokpal at the admission stage itself. The many provisions, while allowing fair trial against officers of higher authority, also reserve exploitation or misuse arising from political motivations. With the notification of rules, the government has set the ball rolling and cast an overwatch over the administration.

While what has been provided is laudable, its efficient implementation is also demanded. The Lokpal will, no doubt, get a bulk of cases which will have to be sorted and scrutinised efficiently. Respecting the time for adjudication or dismissal, the Lokpal will have to deliver on time. The need may arise to expand the Lokpal's cabinet, both at the Centre and state levels. Assessment reports of the Lokpal and cases before it will be informative for the country. The office of the Lokpal is supposed to act as a heavy deterrent against corruption. After what the country experienced back in UPA II, with a plethora of corruption cases that have been, the Lokpal's net would ensure a steep fall in the frequency of the same. It is perhaps only a first step towards ridding the country from corruption. Despite the safety net, there is always scope for going around the law and authority. It is how anti-viruses were made but they require periodic updates to deal with the various new viruses. To the same extent, our Lokpal laws might require amendments and precedents for peculiarities that may arise in future. A dynamic office of the Lokpal should be our aim.

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