Lokpal and Redressel of Citizens grievances:-
The central theme of democracy is that the ruler is accountable to the rules of all sorts of activities and policies. This has arisen due to the fact that the modern states are populous. Because of this and other reasons the direct democracy of ancient Greek city-states or of the Rousseauist model is out of question. Direct democracy may be inapplicable. But people’s grievances against the ruler cannot be ignored.
This view has come from the basic idea that the ruler or authority must explain to the people for any failure or misdeeds. It is generally said that nobody is perfect. There must be shortcomings in the work or administration of the government and if those go against the basic interest of the public, they have legitimate claims for the redressal of the grievances.
Again, the corruption in various stages of administration is rampant and this goes against the general interest of the public. Because of corruption the plans and programmes of state remain unfulfilled. The corruption stands on the way of proper utilisation of resources meant for development.
Naturally people will have grievances against both the government and corruption. Because it is the primary responsibility of the government to build up a clean and corruption- free society. Today’s is a welfare state whose central theme is to see and ensure the welfare of the people. The term welfare is really a pervasive term. But if the administration is corrupt the welfare programmes will remain unfulfilled. Hence it is said that people will have grievances against state and these must be redressed.
Meaning and Origin:
The dictionary meaning of the term ombudsman means an official appointed to investigate individuals complaints against maladministration especially that of public authority. R. K. Dhawan in his Public Grievances and the Lokpal defines it in the following language: “Ombudsman is an officer of Parliament who investigates complaints of citizens of unfair treatment meted out to them by government departments and suggests remedy thereof if he finds that a complaint is justified”.
Hence ombudsman may reasonably be called a guardian of the public against the misdeeds done by the irresponsible or corrupt person holding administrative responsibilities. The post of ombudsman was created in Sweden in the second half of the last century. But many people say that the official of the ombudsman type existed in other European states even before the 1950s. But from the 1950s rose the popularity of ombudsman as a remedy to growing corruption and failure of public administration. There is another side of the picture. The increase in both size of administration and population made common people helpless.
The administrators frequently resorted to unfair means for the realisation of their nefarious motives. It was strongly felt that a device should be found out that will give a weapon at the hands of the general public against the misuse of official power for personal gain. In its absence democracy and welfare of the people will be meaningless. Thus in every democratic state a cell is to be created to look after the grievances of the people.
Ombudsman in India:
During the British rule there was corruption at all levels of administration. But in the steel frame administration of the British government the feeble voices of the people failed to create any impact on the mind of the British rulers. The national government of free India strongly felt that if corruption is not uprooted and grievances of the people are not removed the lofty ideals of freedom fighters would remain unfulfilled. The freedom fighters dream, of a free India which would be free from all sorts of corruption and all the legitimate grievances of the people must be met as soon as possible.
During the first few years of freedom it was thought that corruption was rampant. But it was not the only enemy of free India. The bureaucrats and public servants were indifferent to the needs and grievances of the people. The officers were not competent and all these heavily told upon the progress of India.
At the beginning of the 1900s the Government of India formed a committee to investigate the depth and impact of corruption and other related issues on the progress of economy and smooth sailing of social life. It is known as Committee on Prevention of Corruption. In one place of the report the committee said “In its widest connotation, corruption includes improper or selfish exercise of power and influence attached to the public office or the special position one occupies in public life” These officers are parts of the government and misuse their power and position for personal gains. Hence the grievances regarding corruption are generally against the government.
Causes of Public Grievances:
There are several causes behind the multiplication of people’s grievances which have led to the creation or setting up a cell for the redressal of grievance:
(1) The British government in India was quite indifferent to the grievances, or problems of Indians and, at the same time, the government was autocratic. Naturally the common people had no scope to ventilate their grievances. They were forced to accept everything or left everything to their fate. After independence people began to think that this government is their own and they have right to lodge complaint.
(2) After British rule the scope and sphere of government’s function increased considerably and large number of men came under its orbit. The rise in responsibility increased the sphere of activities and at the same time people’s grievances. Again, people began to think that since the government is their own, they have right to lodge their complaints.
(3) The personnel of the new government thought that they had responsibility to the people. In other words, they admitted their accountability. This encouraged the public to ventilate their problems. The administrators of the British Raj did not feel that they had any responsibility to the ruled. Even if its people lodged any grievances these were not duly remedied by the proper authority.
(4) In free India it was felt by the authority that there is a vast field in which the government has ample scope to do something positive for the people. This has become a vital source of grievances.
(5) The national government wanted to make India a welfare state and naturally people will have grievances.
Many people of India were quite aware that corruption in any form was part of any society and naturally attempts must be made certain to free society from corruption or to mitigate its corrosive effects. It was known to many that for the redressal of public grievances an ombudsman was set up by the Swedish government in 1809. Subsequently many other states followed Sweden.
The government of free India took steps. In 1947 The Prevention of Corruption Act was given the status of law. The purpose of this law was to give people a life free from corruption. To that end several committees and commissions were set up. Some of these are: the Tek Chand Committee (1949), the Railways Corruption Inquiry Committees were set up in 1953. This committee was headed by Acharya J. B. Kripalani and because of this it is known as the Kripalani Committee.
From 1953 to 1965 there were also a good number of commissions and committees whose chief function was to suggest measures against rampant corruption at various fields. In 1962 the Government of India constituted an important Committee to suggest measures for fighting corruption and it is known as Santhanam Committee. The members of the parliament were its members.
In spite of all these committees and commissions the authority practically failed to uproot corrupt practices from the society and administration of India and for that purpose the Government of India set up the famous and very powerful Central Vigilance Commission. This was set up as a follow up action of the Santhanam Committee. The committee should be headed by the Central Vigilance commissioner. It is an ombudsman of Indian type.
Central Vigilance Commission:
The Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) is a landmark institution. By the middle of the 1960s the Central Government felt that drastic action needs to be taken against pervasiveness of corruption. The jurisdiction of the CVC spreads over the Union government employees, employees of all public undertakings, numerous other corporate bodies. The jurisdiction of the CVC is spread over many other organisations who deal with the Central Government matters. The Delhi Municipal Corporation and New Delhi Municipal Committee come under the jurisdiction of CVC. The CVC can be compared with the Swedish institution of ombudsman.
From the report of the Santhanam Committee we get the following functions:
The chief function of the CVC is to free Indian society from the deep rooted evils of corruption. To that end if can start inquiry against any grievance raised by people or organisation. The grievance may be regarding the functions of Civil servant or any particular branch of public administration. The CVC thoroughly investigates various aspects of the grievance.
The CVC has been empowered to call for reports or information or facts from the concerned person or department. The person or organisation is legally bound to furnish information. If the CVC feels that there is sufficient truth in the complaint and it requires further investigation then the CVC may refer the matter to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). The CVC investigates the sources of grievance and if there is any truth in the complaint the CVC submits its report to the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Home Minister places the report before each house of parliament.
There is a man at the head of the CVC and he is known as Central Vigilance Commissioner. He is appointed by the President. The CVC has a separate secretariat to assist him in the discharge of his functions. The Central Vigilance Commission is not a statutory body because its advices or suggestions are not mandatory for the government which means that the government may or may not accept the suggestion.
There are three stages of the CVC:
First is, it receives complaints from individuals or corporate bodies or organisations.
In the Second stage the CVC investigates, and in the final stage it prepares a report. The CVC is, however, an independent and autonomous body. But it cannot be compared with the Swedish system of ombudsman. The latter is a very powerful person.
According to the CVC there are about thirty types of corruption or corrupt practices. In order to enlighten the readers some may be mentioned, embezzlement of public fund, to give or take favours to or from the contractors, irregularities in the discharge of government responsibility, to distribute favours to relative or other persons by violating government rules and procedures, to take or give bribes.
Moral turpitude is also treated by the commission as an offence and hence it is punishable. Mohit Bhattacharya in his assessment of the CVC says: “The Central Vigilance Commission is certainly no substitute for an ombudsman. As it is constituted, the commission is virtually an extension of the bureaucratic apparatus of the central government and its operations are very much hedged in the overpowering ministers and the political forces”. The same opinion has been expressed by several other critics. Since like Election Commission it is not a constitutional authority, its findings and suggestions, in numerous cases, go unheeded. This is the most tragic aspect of the CVC.
We believe that in order to make the CVC an effective body it should be kept outside the tremendous influence of powerful bureaucrats, ministers and party leaders. In the real sense the CVC will have power to uproot all types and forms of corruption. Since its recommendations are nor mandatory the letharginess on the part of government may foil the good motive of the CVC. We feel the Central Government or the top echelon of bureaucracy must be in all sincerity determined to uproot corruption from social and political life. But this type of mentality is almost absent.
Even after the constitution of Central Vigilance Commission, India tops the list of the corrupt countries of the world. The stark reality is that nobody takes corruption as a serious evil and some powerful persons (who have the power to stop corrupt practices) are showing lackadaisical attitude towards this most serious matter. The inevitable consequence is that corruption is getting flabby day after day. We can say that the Central Vigilance Commission is a window dressing in our social and political system.
The functioning of the CVC ultimately proved that it was inadequate to deal with the proper redressal of grievances. Considering the pervasiveness of corruption the Central Government decided to take further and bolder steps to fight corruption. The government of India set up an Administrative Reforms Commission in 1966. The chief purpose is to take effective steps for the redressal of grievances of citizens. It was found that the CVC could not reach the goals or objectives for which it was created.
The Administrative Reforms Commission in its Interim Report said; “After having carefully evaluated the pros and cons…………………………… we are of the view that the special circumstances relating to our country can be fully met by providing for two special institutions for the redressal of citizens’ grievances. There should be one authority dealing with complaints against the administrative acts of ministers or secretaries to government at the centre and in states.
There should be another authority in each state and at the centre for dealing with the complaints against the administrative acts of the other officials” one institution is called Lokpal and the other is called the Lokayukta. These two institutions, the ARC has suggested, must be independent of the executive organ of government. The ARC fully realised that a fully independent body with sufficient power and authority can meet the demands of people and can remove grievances against authority.
Lokpal and Lokayukta:
Both Lokpal and Lokayukta are characterised by the following features:
(1) They, in fact, are the institutions of Indian administrative system. Their fundamental duty is to make the public administration of India free from corruption.
(2) These two institutions are impartial. When they are called for performing any duty they will discharge it impartially and simultaneously independently.
(3) The activities of the Lokpal and Lokayukta are not under any judicial review. That is—the decision or judgment of the Lokpal and Lokayukta cannot be challenged in any court of law.
(4) It is observed that they should not look forward for any financial or any other benefit.
(5) These two institutions are not subject to executive or administrative interference.
(6) The Lokpal and Lokayuktas are non- political persons. In other words, political personalities cannot hold the posts.
(7) These ranks should be of highest judiciary.
(8) They investigate the charges of corruption secretly.
(9) If Lokpal and Lokayukta want to have any information from any department the latter is bound to furnish such information.
There is a process of appointment. The President will appoint the Lokpal. But before that he will take advice of the Prime Minister and the leader of the Opposition. In other words, after receiving suggestion from the leader of Opposition the PM will suggest the name to the President. This process is quite judicious. The Lokpal can resign his office by addressing a letter to the President. The Lokpal is at par with the Chief Justice of India and he will have a secretariat.
It is the primary duty of the Lokpal to free Indian society from corruption: And through this it will ensure justice. The government has power to order any act. But if the act of the government goes against the basic interests or rights of the individual he will move to the Lokpal for investigation and finally to take action. If the act of the government shows favouritism then the concerned persons can lodge a complaint against the authority.
Hence we find that the main area of action or jurisdiction is to free Indian society from corruption and along with it the nepotism and favouritism. But certain matters are excluded from the jurisdiction of Lokpal. For example, if a minister of Central Government has already taken any action or has recommended an action that matter will remain outside the purview of the Lokpal. If the Central Government decides that the issue should not be referred to the judiciary, in that case the Lokpal cannot take up the matter. If the union government already has taken action on an issue, that cannot be investigated by the Lokpal.
There are some acts or processes which fall under terms and conditions of a contract and if the administration takes any action in accordance with the contract the Lokpal will have no jurisdiction over that matter. Finally, the Lokpal will have no jurisdiction over matters such as appointment, removal from office, disciplinary action taken against any employee or person or superannuation etc. The jurisdiction clearly indicates that the scope of the Lokpal is limited.