In India, the Jan Lokpal Bill also referred to as the citizens’ ombudsman bill is a draft anti-corruption law that would create an ombudsmancalled the Jan Lokpal; this would be an independent body similar to the Election Commission with the power to prosecute politicians and bureaucrats without prior government permission.
Collaboratively drafted by Shanti Bhushan, retired Indian Police Service officer Kiran Bedi [citation required - not member of official committee], Justice N. Santosh Hegde, advocate Prashant Bhushan, former chief election commissioner J. M. Lyngdoh in wide public consultation with the leaders of the India Against Corruption movement and civil society. The original bill was mooted by NCPRI in its delegated committee [citation required]. The bill proposes the institution of the office of Lokpal (Ombudsman) at the center and local Lokayukta at the state level.
Finally accepted and under consideration bill draft version is 2.3 - redrafted with inclusion of format, flow and formal structure with table of contents with removal of drafting flaws/errors by Ramarao Velury as per Govt of India Lokpal website.
The bill is designed to create an effective anti-corruption and grievance redressal system that effectively deters corruption while providing effective protection to whistleblowers.
For 42 years, the government-drafted bill has failed to pass through the Rajya Sabha, the upper house of the Parliament of India. The firstLokpal Bill was passed in the 4th Lok Sabha in 1969 but stalled in the Rajya Sabha. Subsequent Lokpal bills were introduced in 1971, 1977, 1985, 1989, 1996, 1998, 2001, 2005 and 2008 but all failed to pass. Following the four day Anna Hazare fasting struggle, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh stated that the Lokpal Bill would be introduced in the 2011 monsoon session of parliament.
Renewed calls for a Jan Lokpal Bill arose over resentment of the major differences between the draft 2010 Lokpal Bill prepared by the government and the Jan Lokpal Bill prepared by the members of this movement, N. Santosh Hegde, a former justice of the Supreme Court of India and Lokayukta of Karnataka, Prashant Bhushan, a senior lawyer in the Supreme Court along with the members of the India Against Corruption movement. This movement has also been joined by many people providing their support in Internet social media such as Twitter and Facebook. In addition to spiritual leaders Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Swami Ramdev, Swami Agnivesh and former Indian cricketer Kapil Dev, many celebrities showed their public support through micro-blogging site Twitter which has received significant public support. The bill’s backers consider existing laws too weak and insufficiently enforced to stop corruption.
Key features of proposed bill
1. To establish a central government anti-corruption institution called Lokpal, supported by Lokayukta at the state level.
2. As in the case of the Supreme Court and Cabinet Secretariat, the Lokpal will be supervised by the Cabinet Secretary and the Election Commission. As a result, it will be completely independent of the government and free from ministerial influence in its investigations.
3. Members will be appointed by judges, Indian Administrative Service officers with a clean record, private citizens and constitutional authorities through a transparent and participatory process.
4. A selection committee will invite shortlisted candidates for interviews, videorecordings of which will thereafter be made public.
5. Every month on its website, the Lokayukta will publish a list of cases dealt with, brief details of each, their outcome and any action taken or proposed. It will also publish lists of all cases received by the Lokayukta during the previous month, cases dealt with and those which are pending.
6. Investigations of each case must be completed in one year. Any resulting trials should be concluded in the following year, giving a total maximum process time of two years.
7. Losses caused to the government by a corrupt individual will be recovered at the time of conviction.
8. Government officework required by a citizen that is not completed within a prescribed time period will result in Lokpal imposing financial penalties on those responsible, which will then be given as compensation to the complainant.
9. Complaints against any officer of Lokpal will be investigated and completed within a month and, if found to be substantive, will result in the officer being dismissed within two months.
10. The existing anti-corruption agencies (CVC, departmental vigilance and the anti-corruption branch of the CBI) will be merged into Lokpal which will have complete power and authority to independently investigate and prosecute any officer, judge or politician.
11. Whistleblowers who alert the agency to potential corruption cases will also be provided with protection by it.
Difference between the proposals
Draft Lokpal Bill (2010)
1. Lokpal will have no power to initiate suo motu action or receive complaints of corruption from the general public. It can only probe complaints forwarded by the Speaker of the Lok Sabha or the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha.
2. Lokpal will only be an Advisory Body with a role limited to forwarding reports to a “Competent Authority”.
3. Lokpal will have no police powers and no ability to register an FIR or proceed with criminal investigations.
4. The CBI and Lokpal will be unconnected.
5. Punishment for corruption will be a minimum of 6 months and a maximum of up to 7 years.
Jan Lokpal Bill (Citizen’s Ombudsman Bill)
1. Lokpal will have powers to initiate suo moto action or receive complaints of corruption from the general public.
2. Lokpal will be much more than an Advisory Body and have the power to initiate prosecution of anyone found guilty.
3. Lokpal will have police powers as well as the ability to register FIRs.
4. Lokpal and the anti corruption wing of the CBI will be one independent body.
5. Punishments will be a minimum of 5 years and a maximum of up to life imprisonment.
Main article: 2011 Indian anti-corruption movement
On March 13, 2011, a group of Delhi residents dressed in white shirts and t-shirts drove around the city for four hours in support of an anti-corruption campaign and the passing of a Jan Lokpal Bill.
Anti-corruption activist Anna Hazare went on hunger strike “unto death” on April 5, 2011, pending the enactment of a Jan Lokpal Bill. Around 6,000 Mumbai residents also began a one-day fast in support of similar demands. Protesters chose yellow as their colour and were seen wearing yellow dresses, T-shirts while waving yellow banners. Inter city protest co-ordination is underway to observe Yellow Sunday.
Hazare also announced plans to start a Jail Bharo Andolan protest on 13 April 2011 if the Jan Lokpal bill is not passed by the government. He also stated that his group has received six crore (60 million) text messages of support and that he has further backing from a large number of Internet activists.
The protests are not political in nature and political leaders were discouraged by Hazare supporters from joining his protests, since he believes that these parties were using the campaign for their own political advantage.
In addition to the activists responsible for creating and organizing support for the bill, a wide variety of other notable individuals have also stated that they support this bill. Spiritual leaders *Sri Sri RaviShankar and Yog Guru Ramdev have both expressed support. Notable politicians who have indicated support for the bill include Ajit Singh and Manpreet Singh Badal as well as the principal opposition party, Bhartya Janta Party. In addition, numerous Bollywood actors, directors, and musicians have publicly approved of the bill.
The government has stated that it has not received a copy of the proposed bill although after Anna Hazare announced his “fast unto death”, he was invited for talks by the Prime Minister but also told that the government had no time before May 13 for such a meeting. To dissuade Hazare from going on an indefinite hunger strike, the Prime Minister’s Office have directed the ministries of personnel and law to examine how the views of society activists can be included in the Lokpal Bill.
On 5 April 2011, the National Advisory Council rejected the Lokpal bill drafted by the government. Union Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal then met social activists Swami Agnivesh and Arvind Kejriwal on 7 April to find ways to bridge differences over the bill. Hazare’s fast was supported by the CPI(M) with their politburo issuing a statement demanding an effective Lokpal Bill.
After several rounds of talks, on 8 April 2011, Anna Hazare announced to his supporters that the Government had agreed to all his demands and he would break his fast on the following Saturday morning. According to the understanding reached, five of the ten-member joint-draft committee would come from society . Pranab Mukherjee will be the Chairman of the draft committee and Shanti Bhushan his Co-Chairman.
The drafting committee was officially formed on 8 April 2011. It consists of ten members, including five from the government and five drawn from society.
Criticisms of the Jan Lokpal Bill
Some people have opined that the Jan Lokpal Bill is ‘Naïve’ in its approach to combating corruption. According to Pratap Bhanu Mehta, President, Center for Policy Research, Delhi, the bill “is premised on an institutional imagination that is at best naïve; at worst subversive of representative democracy”.
The claim that the Lokpal will be an extra-constitutional body has been derided by Hazare’s closest lieutenant, Arvind Kejriwal. He states the Jan Lokpal Bill drafted by civil society will only investigate corruption offences and submit a charge sheet which would then tried and prosecuted, through trial courts and higher courts. Kejriwal further states that the proposed bill also lists clear provisions in which the Supreme Court can abolish the Lokpal.