Salient features of Lokpal bill
The following are the salient features of the proposed anti-graft Lokpal bill introduced by the government in the Lok Sabha Thursday:
* The bill proposes to establish autonomous and independent institutions called Lokpal at the central level and and Lokayukta for states. These shall have powers of superintendence and direction for holding a preliminary inquiry, causing an investigation to be made and prosecution of offences in respect of complaints under any law for the prevention of corruption.
* The Lokpal will consist of a chairperson and a maximum of eight members of which fifty percent shall be judicial members.
* Fifty percent of members shall be from amongst Scheduled Caste (SC), Scheduled Tribe (ST) and Other Backward Classes (OBC), minorities and women.
* It has an inquiry wing for conducting the preliminary inquiry and a separate independent prosecution wing.
* Officers of the Lokpal will include the secretary, director of prosecution, director of inquiry and other officers.
Process of selection
* The selection of chairperson and members of Lokpal shall be through a selection committee consisting of prime minister, Lok Sabha speaker, Lok Sabha leader of opposition, chief justice of India or a sitting Supreme Court judge nominated by chief justice.
* Eminent jurist to be nominated by the president of India.
* A search committee to assist selection committee in the process of selection. Fifty percent of members of search committee shall be from amongst SC, ST, OBCs, minorities and women.
* Prime minister has been brought under the purview of the Lokpal with specific exclusions. Lokpal can not hold any inquiry against the prime minister if allegations relate to international relations, external and internal security of the country, public order, atomic energy and space.
* Any decision of Lokpal to initiate preliminary inquiry or investigation against prime minister shall be taken only by the full bench with a 3/4th majority. Such proceedings shall be held in camera.
* Its jurisdiction to include all categories of public servants including Group 'A', 'B', 'C' and 'D' officers and employees of government.
* On complaints referred by Lokpal, the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) will send its report in respect of Group 'A' and 'B' officers back to Lokpal for further decision. With respect to Group 'C' and 'D' employees, the CVC will proceed further in exercise of its own powers under the CVC act subject to reporting and review by Lokpal.
* All entities receiving donations from foreign sources in the context of the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) in excess of Rs.10 lakh per year are brought under the jurisdiction of the Lokpal.
* Lokpal will not be able to initiate suo moto inquiries.
Other significant features of the bill:
* No prior sanction shall be required for launching prosecution in cases enquired by Lokpal or initiated on the direction and with the approval of Lokpal.
* Provisions for confiscation of property acquired by corrupt means, even while prosecution is pending.
* Lokpal to be final appellate authority on all decisions by public authorities relating to provision of public services and redressal of grievances containing findings of corruption.
* Lokpal to have power of superintendence and direction over any investigation agency including Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) for cases referred to them.
The bill also lays down clear time lines. For the preliminary enquiry, it is three months extendable by three months and for investigations it is six months extendable by six months. The trial will have a one year period extendable by one year.