Proposed Lokpal equipped to attach property of corrupt persons

The Lokpal and investigating officers authorised by it will have powers to attach property if the ombudsman has reason to believe that somebody is in possession of any proceeds of corruption. It can "provisionally" attach property for a period of 90 days.

According to the government draft if "any person is in possession of any proceeds of corruption, such person is accused of having committed an offence relating to corruption and such proceeds of offence are likely to be concealed, transfered or dealt with any manner which may result in frustrating any proceedings relating to confiscation of such proceeds of offence...provisionally attach such property for a period not exceeding 90 days..."

However, the Lokpal will have to inform the Special Court about the attachment and if the latter feels that the attached property was acquired through corrupt means, then it can confirm the attachment till completion of the proceedings.

If the public servant is convicted of corruption, the proceeds relatable to the offence under the Prevention of Corruption Act shall be confiscated and vest in the Central Government "free from any encumbrance or leasehold interest excluding any debt due to any bank or financial institution".

The government draft also says the Lokpal can authorise any officer of its investigation wing to search for and seize any document which shall be useful or relevant to any investigation conducted by it.

"If the Lokpal is satisfied that any document seized would be evidence for the purpose of any investigation or inquiry under this Act and that it would be necessary to retain the document in its custody or in the custody of such officer as may be authorised, it may so retain or direct such officer authorised to retain such document till the completion of such investigation or inquiry," the draft said.

The draft also provides the Lokpal with powers and authority in respect of contempt of itself as the High Court has and may exercise such power or authority.

According to the government document, the Lokpal will have to hear the officer under scanner before it firms up a conclusion following preliminary investigations as well as before filing a charge sheet.

"Before the Lokpal comes to the conclusion in the course of a preliminary inquiry and after submission of a report that a prima facie is made out against the public servant pursuant to such a preliminary inquiry, the Lokpal shall afford the public servant an opportunity to be heard consistent with principles of natural justice.

"...Upon completion of such investigation but before filing a charge sheet, the investigating authority shall place the records in its possession along with it prima facie conclusion before the Lokpal who shall before directing that a charge sheet be filed afford the public servant concerned an opportunity to be heard consistent with the principles of natural justice," the draft said.

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